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Rise in children seeking asylum

They are coming by themselves from other countries, says report 22 January 2009 – Latest figures have revealed a dramatic increase in the number of child asylum seekers fleeing war-torn countries and ending up in Northamptonshire.

Statistics from Northamptonshire County Council show children are coming into the county alone from countries including Afghanistan and Iraq.

And of the 606 children who are currently in council care in Northamptonshire, 106 ended up in the county after escaping other countries.

The council’s head of children’s services, Martin Pratt, said: "There has been a significant increase in the number of looked after children in Northamptonshire since April 2008.

"The majority of that increase is because of a dramatic rise in the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

"I expect the overall figures will reach a plateau, but I can’t say there’ll be a dramatic decrease in the next year to 18 months.

"There was a significant dip in the number of children in the council’s care in 2007, but since September, we have seen a significant increase."

Discussing where children who enter the county from abroad came from, he added: "Principally we’re dealing with children from Afghanistan."

The figures were discussed during yesterday’s meeting of the council’s children and young people scrutiny committee where councillors also expressed concern the number of children in care could increase as a result of the credit crunch.

The authority’s director of child services, Paul Burnett, acknowledged both issues were high on the agenda.

He said: "We’ve got the asylum seeker issue as well as the credit crunch issue. Both these figures need to be considered by councillors when they’re putting the budget together for the service."

The scrutiny committee’s chairman, Councillor Ron Sawbridge (Con, Brackley West) also acknowledged the dramatic increase in children coming into the county from other parts of the world put "extreme pressure" on the council.

He said: "These are children who are coming by themselves from other countries.
"And one of the problems is we don’t always know their age and they very often speak very little English.
"But they’re the most vulnerable children we’re going to see."

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