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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 12:33 GMT
Rise in child asylum seekers
Child refugees
Many children cross Europe alone
The proportion of asylum seekers arriving in the UK as unaccompanied children has reached unprecedented levels, the BBC has learnt.

Hundreds of youngsters arrive every year with many left to fend for themselves in shared houses or bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

Under the Children's Act, those under 16 should be place in foster care, but the UK has a shortage of foster families.

These are kids who have lost their parents and any supporting relatives

Brendan Paddy
Save the Children
A decade ago, one in a hundred asylum applications was filed by a child arriving in Britain without his or her parents.

In the first half of last year, according to the Home Office figures, it was nearly one in 20.

But the national shortage of foster families mean that some end up in shared houses with no supervising adult.

Local authorities place others in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, often sharing facilities with other residents.

Charities working with refugees say unaccompanied youngsters are entitled to have a "statement" of their educational and social needs.

Parents lost

Many councils cannot or will not provide the resources to meet them.

Brendan Paddy, of Save the Children, said it was likely more than 3,000 children under the age of 18 enter the UK in a year.

"These are kids who have lost their parents and any supporting relatives.

"[Or you have] parents and supporting relatives so concerned about the situations in their countries of origin that they have literally bundled them onto a plane to get them to a place of safety."

The BBC's Jake Lynch
"They face difficulties both practical and emotional"
See also:

26 Dec 01 | Scotland
New calls to close Sangatte
28 Dec 01 | Europe
Refugee camp boss defiant
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