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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Kent faces child asylum burden
Asylum kids graphic
Social services in Kent have taken more than 1,200 child asylum seekers into care after they arrived in the UK without a parent or guardian.

Some of the children, who are as young as eight, had travelled from the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, leader of Kent County Council, said: "We're talking about unaccompanied minors as it's called and that means children of 17 and under who arrive in this country completely on their own and there are now some 1,300 or so that the county council is now responsible for."

According to figures from the Department of Health the numbers are rising.

'Slow appeal'

Statistics show local authorities across England are looking after 6,000 children compared with 2,500 in 1999.

It is reported that the children are smuggled into the country and then found dumped at the roadside or discovered during routine vehicle searches at ports.

In Kent figures show more than 100 children are arriving every month.

Mr Bruce Lock-hart said: "We have responsibility for them because although the government brought in a dispersal system for adults and adults with children which was just over a year ago, there is no dispersal system for unaccompanied minors.

'Slow bureaucracy'

"So their responsibility is with Kent County Council."

He blamed a "very slow, very bureaucratic system" for the delay in processing their applications

Kate Stanley, from the charity Save the Children, described the situation for the child asylum seekers as "an incredibly difficult time".

She said: "It's very hard to put into words something that thee young people have to experience at such a young and tender age."

See also:

07 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Refugee dispersal 'will continue'
07 Aug 01 | Scotland
Calm plea as race tensions rise
06 Aug 01 | Scotland
Influx blamed for area tensions
05 Aug 01 | Scotland
Racial motive link to killing
05 Aug 01 | Scotland
Murder hunt for Turkish man's killer
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