Coun­cil ‘is not able’ to help refugee chil­dren

Asy­lum seek­ers: Au­thor­ity says it can’t of­fer more place­ments

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY JON HEB­DITCH

Cash-strapped coun­cil bosses have warned there is not enough “ca­pac­ity” to bring more refugee chil­dren to Aberdeen.

The UK Gov­ern­ment is “keen” for lo­cal au­thor­i­ties across the coun­try to help with the “dis­per­sal” of un­ac­com­pa­nied asy­lum seek­ing chil­dren (UASC) from the two English coun­cils of Houn­slow and Kent, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port to next week’s ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee.

The un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren, many of whom are flee­ing some of the world’s worst war zones, re­quire a high level of sup­port, in­clud­ing with hous­ing and ed­u­ca­tion.

But the re­port warns that Aberdeen is un­likely to find proper ac­com­mo­da­tion for the chil­dren and they are build­ing bridges with the

“faith com­mu­nity” in the city in an­tic­i­pa­tion.

This year, the city coun­cil had to trim more than £40 mil­lion from its bud­get.

It is un­der­stood that Kent is home to 1,000 UASC while an Aberdeen City Coun­cil spokesman said they had “a small num­ber”.

Aberdeen be­came home to around 100 Syr­ian refugees flee­ing the civil war in 2015, but many of th­ese are fam­i­lies who re­quire less sup­port.

The re­port adds that the num­ber of asy­lum seek­ers com­ing to the UK is likely to fall in com­ing years. It reads: “The gov­ern­ment has amended the leg­is­la­tion which al­lows for UASC to be dis­persed.

“At present this is on a vol­un­tary ba­sis, al­though could move to a com­pul­sory ba­sis should de­mand grow.

“Cur­rent assess­ment would in­di­cate that (the coun­cil) is not able to of­fer place­ments to UASC.

“(Coun­cil) staff have es­tab­lished links with the lo­cal faith com­mu­nity to ex­plore sup­port op­tions should this sit­u­a­tion change.

“Im­pact will pro­vide for dif­fer­ent bor­der con­trols and num­ber of UASC en­ter­ing UK an­tic­i­pated to slow.

“The needs of UASC are very dif­fer­ent to other groups of young peo­ple in terms of le­gal sta­tus and ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Last night Aberdeen and Aberdeen­shire Green party co-con­vener Guy Inger­son said the lo­cal au­thor­ity could be “miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity” given the pop­u­la­tion de­cline in the re­gion.

In June, it emerged the Gran­ite City’s pop­u­la­tion had dropped by about 1,040 since 2017.

Mr Inger­son said: “This could be a short-sighted move as Aberdeen and Aberdeen­shire have recorded pop­u­la­tion de­clines due to the oil and gas crash. Not only is this in­vest­ing in the fu­ture of th­ese chil­dren but also in the re­gion.

“Con­sid­er­ing some of the things the coun­cil spends money on, per­haps we should re-ex­am­ine our pri­or­i­ties.”

SNP ed­u­ca­tion spokesman David Cameron said: “Aberdeen City Coun­cil should be do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to ex­plore all av­enues to as­sist th­ese chil­dren. Af­ter all, they have had their lives com­pletely turned up­side down, and have likely ex­pe­ri­enced things we can barely imag­ine.”

Lib Dem ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Martin Greig said: “Aberdeen and the north-east have a pos­i­tive rep­u­ta­tion in wel­com­ing refugees. Hope­fully the city can con­tinue to reach out to help those in gen­uine need.”

An Aberdeen City Coun­cil spokesman said there was a “small num­ber” of the chil­dren in the city cur­rently but could not say ex­actly how many “to en­sure we don’t risk iden­ti­fi­ca­tion”.

“As the re­port in­di­cates, the view is Aberdeen does not have ca­pac­ity to ac­com­mo­date ad­di­tional UASC at present,” he said.

Houn­slow and Kent coun­cils were con­tacted for com­ment.

“Staff have es­tab­lished links with the faith com­mu­nity”

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