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Community / SIC considers changes to the refugee transfer scheme

SHETLAND Islands Council (SIC), along with other Scottish local authorities, has been told to accept placements of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children as part of a national transfer system.

Up until now the scheme had been voluntary and Scottish island councils due to their limited resources had not been expected to take any children asylum seeking.

The SIC, through the local authority umbrella body CoSLA, has two weeks to make representations to the Home Office.

Last week, before the drowning tragedy in the English Channel on Wednesday, home secretary Priti Patel had accused Scottish local authorities of not doing enough to help alleviate the refugee crisis.

The voluntary scheme to accept unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) has now become temporarily mandatory, including guaranteed payments of £143 per child/per night from central government to local authorities.

The decision to mandate the scheme is vital to ensuring unaccompanied asylum-seeking children receive the critical care they need and end the use of hotels following the unprecedented recent pressure placed on the asylum system, Home Office minister Kevin Foster said.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison said it was unclear yet whether Shetland would be mandated, and a discussion would have to take place among council leaders to determine which local authorities would be best suited to help accommodate vulnerable youngsters.

“When CoSLA looked at this scheme when it was not mandatory, the position was that local authorities on islands were not expected to take part because our populations and our capacity for foster care parents and supported accommodation for children was less than what was available on the mainland,” she said.

“That was the decision taken by CoSLA but obviously the situation has changed, and we need to understand what that means.”

It is believed that there are currently 4,500 accompanied asylum seeking children in the UK, mainly looked after by councils in the southeast of England.

Children and refugee charities have expressed concern for the welfare of young people as record numbers of adults and children arrive in the UK in small boats.