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Asylum (Unaccompanied Children)

Volume 608: debated on Monday 11 April 2016

6. What support her Department is providing for local authority provision for unaccompanied children seeking asylum. (904380)

The Home Office provides financial support to local authorities by meeting reasonable additional costs for those local authorities taking on responsibility for the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Immigration Bill will underpin arrangements to secure more equitable dispersal between local authorities.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but given the number of cases where people over the age of 18 are pretending to be children, what can local authorities do to ensure that their limited resources are being best directed to very vulnerable children?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I also thank those in Northamptonshire for the work they are doing to deal with the pressures they have experienced and for the way in which they have approached this through the discussions and round-table meetings that have taken place. Clear age-assessment tests are undertaken to ensure that support is provided to those who require it and not to those who do not. Let me add that I will be writing to all local authorities this week with an update on progress on the national transfer scheme to aid the more equitable dispersal.

20. Can the Minister say how much money from the overseas budget has been used to help local authorities to resettle asylum seekers? (904395)

The hon. Gentleman is asking not about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children but a broader question about the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. We have set out the different funding mechanisms available to those who are resettled and some of that is fundable through overseas development aid. That is how we are ensuring that appropriate support and welcome are given to the people arriving.

I think the Minister would agree that we can perform our duty as a country only if all areas take up their responsibility, so it is good to hear his answer. May I ask him about education support? Vulnerable children should not lose their chance of a future, so how will local authorities with experience of helping asylum-seeker children support those with less experience of educating those children?

We have had discussions with the Department for Education and the Local Government Association about the voluntary dispersal arrangements we want to see, underpinned by the Immigration Bill currently in the other place. We are continuing the dialogue on precisely how elements of that are implemented and on how we can learn from the expertise of authorities that have had greater involvement in these matters.

24. During the recess, Scottish National party MPs visited the Calais and Dunkirk refugee camps and witnessed unaccompanied children being forced to share bed space with unrelated adults. That is clearly a troubling and serious matter. Does the Minister think the Government are doing enough to support those children? Surely it is time to step up to the plate and do more. (904399)

We are working closely with the French Government. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Refugees said in answer to a previous question, we have had a secondee working in the Ministry of the Interior in France to speed up the process in relation to children identified as having links to family here in the UK. Equally, the French Government are putting greater support in through a charity to raise awareness and identify children better to give them the help they require.