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CHILD refugees as young as 14 have been forced to sleep on the floor for days at a Home Office site in Dover without proper hygiene facilities.
Ministers were accused of failing to heed warnings after they admitted this week that dozens of children are being held at Kent Intake Unit for longer than the maximum 24-hour period.
Conditions at the building in Dover’s port have been described as “wholly inappropriate” with children forced to sleep on the floor or on military-style camp beds without proper washing facilities, according to the BBC.
The Refugee Council said the situation had reached “crisis point” in recent weeks due to an increase in small boat arrivals, and Kent County Council’s decision to stop taking unaccompanied minors into its care, citing huge pressures on service.
The charity, which Is contracted by the Home Office to provide support for child refugees for a few hours of their arrival, said it had seen children kept at the unit for “several days on end.”
Dozens of children were similarly held at the site last summer. An inspection of the unit in September 2020 found that “children were held for far too long and often overnight” in facilities with “no access to the open air and little or no natural light.”
Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) said it was “really shameful” that the situation had been allowed to repeat itself.
Spokesperson Bridget Chapman told the Morning Star: “These children are traumatised, they’re vulnerable, and they need to feel that they are safe and this is totally unacceptable.”
Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft told a committee of MPs on Wednesday that the situation was not “ideal,” but claimed it was “better to hold them there than to not know where they are going.”
But Ms Chapman said the current situation could have been avoided had the government provided proper funding for the national transfer scheme to allow councils — many having repeatedly expressed a willingness to take in child refugees — to bring them into their care.
“I think you have to start to assume that it’s deliberate cruelty because why would you do this to children unless you had no other option?” she added.
Refugee Council CEO Enver Solomon said: “Despite the best efforts of our staff and agencies on the ground this government, as the corporate parent, has fallen short of its legal duty to provide the level of care the children are entitled to.
“It is imperative that ministers quickly put in place a long-term solution to prioritise children’s welfare so that no child who comes to the UK alone seeking safety is neglected.”
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