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Council leader says child asylum process ‘should have been quicker’

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Renfrewshire remains willing to help offer a new home to unaccompanied refugee children – but its council leader says the area could have done more by now if not for government red tape.

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Currently, around 1,000 unaccompanied asylum-seekers aged under 16 are housed in Kent – with hundreds more arriving in Britain this week from the refugee camp in Calais, soon to be closed by French authorities.

Renfrewshire Council agreed in September to start the work to put in place support arrangements for a small number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

But bosses weren’t able to fully progress those plans at the time as the UK Government’s national transfer scheme UK Government to relocate those children doesn’t apply in Scotland due to the separate legal system.

While that matter remains unresolved, the Home Office is now asking if local authorities in Scotland are willing to take in any of the new arrivals from Calais, outwith the terms of the national scheme.

And while Councillor Mark Macmillan says Renfrewshire is willing to help if it can, he feels more could have been done by now if there had been progress on the national scheme.

He said: “I believe everyone has a duty to help those fleeing persecution and am pleased my fellow councillors in Renfrewshire agreed this year to do our share.

“Renfrewshire Council is already leading the way within Scotland on its work to resettle vulnerable people fleeing the Syrian conflict – the 81 refugees accepted by the area since last year is the second-highest of any local authority in the UK.

“And we would like to build on that further by offering safety and shelter to a small number of the children arriving in the UK without anyone to support them through what must be an incredibly upsetting experience at such a young age.

“I welcome the decision made by the Home Office this week to ask for help from Scottish councils, and we will stay in touch with them to find out what is required.

“But I am frustrated at knowing we could have done more by now had the government not dragged their heels on the legal process around the national transfer scheme over recent months.”