Refugees: Children

Home Office written question – answered on 24th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many unaccompanied children have been transferred since June to the care of councils since arriving in England from crossing the English Channel; to list the countries of origin of such children, including the number of children for each such country;  what their policy is in regard to the long term needs and care of these children; and what plans they have to make the National Transfer Scheme compulsory.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

The Government remains committed to helping and supporting children in need of international protection. Since 2010, the UK has received over 23,700 asylum claims from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC).

The National Transfer Scheme (NTS) supports local authorities to transfer responsibility for these children to another participating local authority and seeks to achieve a fairer allocation of caring responsibilities across the country so that all children get the care and support they need.

We publish data on the number of transfers completed under the scheme each quarter as part of the Home Office Migration Transparency Data (NTS_01), which is available on GOV.UK. As at June 2020, over 1,050 children had been transferred under the scheme since it began. We do not currently publish a nationality breakdown of those children transferred under the scheme, however these children would be a subset of the UASC data published as part of the ‘asylum applications, initial decisions and resettlement’ volume of the quarterly Immigration Statistics (Asy_D01), which is also available on GOV.UK.

UASC have often suffered deep trauma and they should receive the same level of care and support we would expect for any looked after child. In 2017, we published our Safeguarding Strategy for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children which sets out the Government’s commitments to safeguard and promote their welfare.

Whilst there are statutory powers to mandate a transfer scheme, our preference is to continue to operate the NTS on a voluntary basis. We recognise a need to achieve a more equitable distribution of UASC and have therefore worked with local government partners to develop proposals to further improve the scheme. On 28 August we launched an informal consultation with local authorities on these proposals. The consultation also seeks views on a potential mandatory approach should participation in the voluntary scheme not achieve a more proportionate distribution of UASC.

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