The residents of a small town in Devon have spoken out against the “bizarre” decision to home up to 70 so-called “child migrants” from Calais in their community; a decision they say was made without consulting anyone locally.
The migrants are to be placed in a temporary Home Office “respite facility” near Great Torrington, which has a population of just 5,000, The Telegraph has reported.
“We are a very tolerant, accommodating community but that is a very large amount of people,” said Nick Hallam, secretary of the Great Torrington Cavaliers, which has won The Queen’s Award for voluntary service.
“This is the first we have heard about it and I think that the Home Office should have consulted with the local community on these things.”
It is thought that the children are being brought to the UK under the Dubs Amendment – a change in the law which made it possible for the government to accept migrants with no links to the UK. The first children to be brought into the UK, mostly girls from Eritrea, arrived in Croydon on Saturday.
However, Devon County Council has told the BBC that the purpose of the temporary facility is to provide a safe and welcoming place before the children are reunited with family members or moved to other parts of the country.
Mr. Hallam has countered that he did not know of a single migrant family currently living in the area. He also expressed concern that local amenities are already over-stretched.
“Fifty to 70 is a huge number and it’s a very rural area. You have to think that there are very restricted public transport services,” he said.
“Access to dentists and doctors is very limited. You would have thought it would have made more sense to settle them in rural areas. It seems bizarre.”
The council said it is working with the police, NHS and other local authorities as part of the “emergency response”.
“These will be vulnerable young people,” Councillor James McInnes said. “They will be frightened and they will be exhausted, and we as an authority have a statutory responsibility to support those that present in Devon.”
Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, has also supported the arrangement, which he said was not permanent.
“The majority of the children will only be here for a few days,” he said. “They will be under 18 and there is no question of anyone over 18 coming.”
In recent days the Home Office has come in for a great deal of criticism as pictures of the children being brought into the UK showed them to be in their 20s – and potentially older.
It has so far resisted calls, including from Breitbart London Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam, for the migrants to undergo checks to verify their ages, instead constructing a 15ft barrier around the entry point in Croydon to “protect their privacy”.