Public foot juvenile asylum bill

TAXPAYERS are funding a £220,000 black hole in county coffers spent looking after juvenile asylum seekers in Suffolk, it emerged today.

TAXPAYERS are funding a £220,000 black hole in county coffers spent looking after juvenile asylum seekers in Suffolk, it emerged today.

New figures show that at the end of March this year Suffolk County Council was caring for 47 unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK compared to 18 the previous year.

Looking after the children cost a total of £456,000 between April 2007 and March this year although funding from the Home Office has only covered £236,000 so far.

The previous year (06/07) the council spent out £231,000 on juvenile asylum seekers but was left to pick up a bill of £53,673 after the Home Office only stumped up £177,000 of that amount.

Back in June The Evening Star revealed that Suffolk is seeing increasing numbers of children fleeing to the area from war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan.

Experts say the increasing trend of Afghans heading for Suffolk, mirrored nationwide, is a result of the escalating conflict in Afghanistan.

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With allied forces looking to crack down on Taliban insurgents, more people are being affected by the brutal fighting.

Many youngsters are fleeing the violence with some ending up in the UK following long trips through Europe that see them stow away on ships headed for Felixstowe.

Money spent includes the cost of providing care and accommodation as well as staff costs.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: “For young people under the age of 16 the county council receives £100 per day and for 16 to 18-year-olds we receive £45 per day from the Home Office.

“So it depends on the cost of the placement and age of the child to what we request from the locality budget.

“We are able to reclaim costs in most cases. However in a few complex cases where the child in question has particular needs then the local authority may fund additional services."

Should Suffolk foot the bill for asylum seekers in the county? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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