Councils stretched to breaking point by the migrant crisis have been dipping into the public purse to pay the cab fares for newly arrived migrants to reach to temporary accommodation in London. Fares of £150 are not uncommon, with one driver claiming his firm has made eight such trips this week alone.
Kent County Council has been particularly hard hit by the migrant crisis in Calais, which has seen the number of children it is expected to deal with sky-rocketing in the last few weeks. In March, Kent had 368 youngsters seeking asylum in its care; that number has now doubled to 629 by the end of last week, according to The Express.
Unable to find foster homes and accommodation for them within its boundaries, Kent CC is resorting to sending the youngsters to accommodation in London, 70 miles away from Dover, and paying for taxis to transport them there.
A Kent County Council spokesman told The Telegraph: “It has been necessary to transfer some by taxi, for which charges of up to £150 are not unusual, depending on distance.
“We are trying to keep these costs to a minimum and have negotiated better rates by entering into contracts with some firms. We hope to recoup these costs from central government.”
A Government spokesman added: “We have already committed to discussing reimbursing reasonable additional costs, but this is a matter for the council.”
Around 50 children have already been placed in foster homes in neighbouring counties after Kent ran out of placements. Last week, Paul Carter, the council’s leader, warned that his council was facing a £5.5 million budget shortfall thanks to the “massive logistical exercise” of looking after the young migrants.
Yesterday, the Local Government Association called on central government to reimburse councils the costs of looking after the youngsters, as they are liable for all maintenance costs, including schooling, university and housing, up to the age of 25, even if the migrants move to another part of the country.
Teenagers hailing from across Africa and the Middle East are being dumped at the side of the road by people smugglers just outside ports and airports. The vast majority are boys aged around 14.
Meanwhile, migrants who have smuggled themselves across the channel are being put up in hotels and given food and money to spend, as the country’s six purpose built immigration centres, all of which can house 1,200 migrants, are full.
The Home Office pays £150million to private companies to find the migrants somewhere to stay. One such company is Serco, which insisted that the use of hotels did not cost taxpayers extra.
A spokesman for the company said: “We ensure that the asylum seekers always have full access to healthcare services during this time. Our priority is at all times to make sure that they are safe and secure and are treated with dignity and respect.”
But Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke said: “It is outrageous that asylum seekers are being put up in hotel rooms at public expense. It’s this sort of soft touch that makes this country so attractive to migrants. The message should go out that they will be detained in disused military camps.”