The High Court in London said that Britain has been illegally housing unaccompanied minor refugees in reception hotels for more than a year, to prevent them from getting the necessary protection from local authorities.
In its ruling on July 27, the court found that Kent County Council, where migrants arrive after crossing the English Channel, had acted in contravention of the obligations of the Children’s Act of 1989 by not providing shelter and caring for all unaccompanied children seeking asylum, thus depriving them of their rights to protection.
Judge Martin Chamberlain’s ruling stated that asylum-seeking children could be accommodated in hotels for “very short periods of time in real emergencies,” but the state exceeded those limits, according to “Al-Muhager” website.
He explained that since December 2021, “the practice of providing shelter for children in hotels, outside the care of the local authorities, has been occurring systematically and routinely and has become an established part of procedures for dealing with children (unaccompanied asylum seekers)”.
The End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) filed the complaint last June, noting that the British Home Office had illegally agreed that Kent County Council would receive a specified number of children, despite the laws stipulating that all minor arrivals must be received.
Thus, the court asserts that the Home Office’s failure to provide adequate reception and protection for minors is “unlawful”.
In January, the British newspaper “The Guardian” published an investigation into the disappearance of dozens of minor immigrants from a reception center in Brighton.
ECPAT’s director, Patricia Durr, said in a statement that the ruling “serves as a clear and timely reminder that no central or local government departments can deviate from the legal framework of child care and duties towards all children.”
In an official response, the authorities acknowledged their practice, but provided justifications.
According to “The Guardian” Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said “We acknowledge and accept the judge’s ruling, but since the arrival of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children began to rise sharply in 2015, we have confirmed to the Home Office and to our partners publicly” that new arrivals must be transferred to other counties, so that Kent “can support all new arrivals” through the Port of Dover.
Ensuring the safety and care of individuals under the age of 18 who are unaccompanied by their families is the duty of the local authorities, but placing them in hotels without special protection may expose them to countless risks.
Child protection experts warn that placing these unaccompanied minors in similar centers could put them at risk of sexual abuse, kidnapping or exploitation by gangs.
Migrants’ attempts to cross the English Channel from northern France continue, and according to figures from the Home Office, from the beginning of this year until July 9, about 12,700 migrants arrived in the UK by small boats.
This is not the first time that the British authorities have faced judicial convictions, as this ruling comes just one week after the Supreme Court of Justice, found British Home Secretary Soyla Braverman guilty of not paying the full amount of financial aid allocated to pregnant women and families with children during the consideration of their asylum claims.
The court considered that she had failed in her duty to provide pregnant women and children with enough money for healthy nutrition.