Refugee children from the Calais ‘jungle’ will NOT be offered sanctuary in Bedford.
The borough council says it has already taken its quota of migrant youngsters and their families – and simply has no room for more.
Bedford is currently caring for around 28 unaccompanied children from Syria, and has also pledged to take four refugee families a year over a five-year period.
But the extra pressure as the French government dismantles the camp at Calais – home to up to 6,000 migrants – would prove too much, said Mayor Dave Hodgson.
“We have taken more than our fair share and the community here has been incredibly supportive,” he told the T&C.
“I would love to take some of the children from Calais right now, but we need to check out our finances first.
“We’re a small council and, probably because of Yarl’s Wood, we have taken far more child refugees than other, larger local authorities.”
Caring for Bedford’s existing child refugees has taken a hefty chunk out of the council’s already-overstretched budget.
“We have to save £24m this year, and that’s on top of all the savings we’ve already made,” said Dave.
The council is working with local bodies such as the Bedfordshire Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support (BRASS) and the King’s Arms Project, harnessing support and help the refugees integrate in the community.
“These refugee families have been made homeless and vulnerable by a devastating conflict and are in desperate need of a safe, stable home,” said the mayor.
Every local authority in the UK has been asked if it would take some of the children from Calais. According to national media reports, three out of every four councils has refused.
A Bedford Borough spokesperson said: “This council is working within the agreed regional and national protocol for asylum seeking children and we have already reached our share and continue to take families from Syria.”