David Cameron’s hypocrisy on refugee children

Council funds to care for asylum seekers have been cut


In a Lords debate last week, the Lib Dem Peer Lord Ashdown elicited an admission from Baroness Stowell that under current policy, refugee children can be sent back to their countries of origin on their eighteenth birthdays:

“There is a clear legal framework that applies when people arrive here as refugees, which includes, after so many years, people being entitled to residency in the United Kingdom. I am not suggesting that there is a new set of rules.”

David Cameron’s ‘u-turn’ on refugees has generated such huge headlines that many of the details of his policies on refugees, and in particular child refugees, have been allowed to slip under the radar. Under the present law refugee children are entitled to ‘Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children leave’ but this expires when they reach eighteen.

This means that British-educated children who have spent the vast majority of their childhoods in the UK will have to fight to stay in the country they call home. As well as being cruel this decision is illogical, meaning that people are removed at the very moment they begin to contribute to the economy.

This isn’t the only condition Cameron’s supposedly compassionate turnaround comes attached to. It has also emerged that the government has cut the payment that helps look after child asylum seekers.

The Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children payment (UASC) is given to local councils for them to spend on healthcare, education and housing for children like those who will shortly be arriving from Syria. It is automatically withdrawn the day before the child turns 18.

The standard UASC rate is £95.00 per day for under-16s, and £71.00 per day for 16 and 17-year-olds, although this may vary between councils. Kent, Croydon and Hillingdon, three areas with high populations of child asylum seekers due to their proximity to ferry stations and airports, say they have had their funding cut to £114 per per day for each child under 16, down from £137.50, and £91 for 16 and 17-year-olds instead of £114.

These cuts were announced in July, before the refugee crisis reached its peak – though arguably that just means before media coverage reached its peak. But there has been no mention of reversing these cuts in light of the new developments.

Croydon Council says it received about £20m through the scheme in 2014/15 and that it had calculated the cuts would reduce that to £16m if the borough’s child asylum-seeker population remained the same size. But clearly that population is now likely to grow, meaning the funding loss is likely to amount to more than £4m.

The council due to hold talks with ministers over the next few weeks, calling for the cuts to be reversed. Theresa May said yesterday that preparations for the arrival of refugees were ‘proceeding at pace’. Those preparations absolutely must include revisiting this funding decision, and amending UASC leave to make sure that it is humane and logical.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. 

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