Council leaders in West Berkshire were expecting more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to arrive in 2020 but “they just didn’t appear”.

Each year West Berkshire Council takes responsibility for desperate children who end up in the district after climbing aboard lorries that travel along the M4 and the A34.

It is also part of voluntary National Transfer Scheme, which allows unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to be transferred from one local authority to another.

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The Home Office called on councils across the country take responsibility for more young refugees after Kent County Council was overwhelmed by an influx in August.

On August 17, the council said it had 612 of these children in its care and couldn’t take in anymore, so the Home Office relocated some of them and sent 200 new arrivals to other councils.

Since August, West Berkshire Council has accepted three children through the National Transfer Scheme and taken in another two, but it was expecting more unannounced arrivals.

The latest figures show that in December 2020, the council was caring for 12 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

Cllr Dominic Boeck, executive member for children and young people, said: “The unaccompanied asylum seekers, which we were expecting to turn up at places like Chievley Services, just didn’t appear. This was unanticipated.

“What’s happened is the same number of asylum-seeking children have entered the country, but they’ve remained on the coastal strip. They haven’t jumped on lorries and appeared on our patch.

“I think that’s something that would have been really difficult to anticipate.”

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His comments came at a meeting of the council’s executive on Thursday, February 11.

Cllr Boeck also said the council “budgeted” for a sudden surge in new arrivals and that money has not been spent yet, but it is prepared to take in more unaccompanied asylum-seeking child refugees.

“When the government asks us to take me, we will take more,” he said.