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Kelly Tolhurst calls on government to help ease pressure on Kent in caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking children

PUBLISHED: 16:54 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:54 06 March 2017

Child asylum seeker

Child asylum seeker

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A host of county MPs have taken the Commons to express the need for more councils to step up and help

Kelly Tolhurst has become the latest Kent MP to call on the government ease the pressure on the county in looking after vulnerable children.

A host of MPs from across the county have taken to the House of Commons in recent months to praise Kent County Council’s work in looking after an increased number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children - with other local authorities seemingly not doing their bit to help.

KCC chiefs have long insisted the government’s voluntary dispersal system has not helped ease the pressure, though there have been suggestions a mandatory system could be on the cards in the near future.

It comes after the home secretary told Faversham and Mid Kent MP, Helen Whately, “we are so fortunate that Kent does step up”.

Speaking at Home Office Questions in parliament today, Ms Tolhurst, who represents Rochester and Strood, said: “Kent continues to be on the frontline of unaccompanied asylum seeking children arriving in the UK with over 3,000 arriving each year.

“Given the interest across the house, could the minister outline what steps are being taken to ensure local authorities across the country are helping to share the burden of counties like Kent, for children, no matter how they’ve come into the UK?”

Immigration minister Robert Goodwill said in response: “It’s precisely why we set up the National Transfer Scheme for local authorities like Kent that have 400 more children than the 0.07 per cent allocation [a general target for councils] would indicate, and that’s why we encourage local authorities who have said they’ve got spare spaces to actually participate in that scheme and take the pressure off councils such as Kent.”

At the same debate, Dover MP Charlie Elphicke urged the minister to do all he can to make sure a new migrant jungle does not form across the Channel at Calais this year.

“It is not just a humanitarian squalor in which 10,000 people were condemned shamefully into, it is also essential we stop the terrible pull factors that draw people across Europe for these terrible and dangerous journeys,” he said.

Mr Goodwill replied: “The site of the former Calais camp remains clear and work, supported by UK funding, is ongoing to permanently remove all form of camp infrastructure and accommodation and restore it to its natural state.

“This should help prevent any re-establishment of future squats or camps in that area.”

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