Children from Calais 'Jungle' set to arrive in Britain ahead of camp demolition
Councils are preparing for the arrival of children from the Calais "Jungle" next week as part of a drive to transfer young refugees to Britain before the camp is demolished.
French authorities are poised to begin work to dismantle the site after President Francois Hollande said it would be removed by the end of the year.
Earlier this week Home Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed she had stressed to her French counterpart that children eligible to come to the UK should be moved out of the camp before the demolition process starts.
David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's a sylum, refugee and migration task group, said councils have a strong record of supporting children travelling alone.
"The number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children living in England increased by more than 60% to over 4,000 in the last year, and the vast majority of councils are already providing care and support for these vulnerable children and young people," he said.
"Those arriving from the Calais camp will require care and support packages directly from councils and their partners.
"For those children relocated with existing family living in the UK, councils will still want to be assured that arrangements put in place can meet the child's needs and that they are safe and well.
"Many will have also experienced horrendous conditions within and since fleeing their country of origin, so councils will want to ensure they are able to settle into communities as quickly and easily as possible with ongoing support made available when they need it."
Councils have offered to provide expert social workers to carry out assessments to help ensure the process is managed effectively, Mr Simmonds said.
He added that town halls "also require long-term funding arrangements from government so that the commitment to support those children starting a new life in the UK is properly funded".
Campaigners say they have identified hundreds of children in the camp who have a right to come to Britain - either because they have family ties here under the so-called Dublin regulations, or through a programme to give refuge to unaccompanied minors from Europe.
The Government has faced criticism over efforts to identify and transfer youngsters through the routes.
Ms Rudd told the Commons on Monday that more than 80 unaccompanied children had been accepted for transfer under the Dublin regulation so far this year.
Under the rule, asylum claims must be made in the first safe country a person reaches - but children can have their application transferred to another country if they have family members living there.
The Home Secretary also said that more than 50 children had been taken, largely from Greece, under Lord Dubs' amendment to the Immigration Act.
Stephen Hale, chief executive of the charity Refugee Action, said: " It's fantastic news that, at last, vulnerable children in Calais will be reunited with their families in Britain.
"These children must have the support they need to rebuild their lives when they arrive."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "It is very welcome news that some of the unaccompanied children in Calais will finally be reunited with their families here in the UK.
"It is appalling that is has taken over a year of pressure from the public and organisations across the UK to get the Government to act."
The sense of urgency surrounding the issue was reinforced by a warning that there could be a "mass disappearance" unless the transfer of eligible children is secured before the closure of the camp.
A report by Tomas Bocek, the Council of Europe secretary general's special representative on migration and refugees, said: "Because of the imminent threat of eviction, children are putting their lives at risk every day to enter the United Kingdom clandestinely instead of waiting for lawful entry through official channels.
"A mass disappearance, like the one that occurred during the eviction of the southern part of the Jungle, is considered highly likely unless the transfer of eligible children to the United Kingdom is secured before the closure of the camp."
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "As the Home Secretary told the House of Commons on Monday, our priority must be to ensure the safety and security of the children in the Calais camp.
"When she met the French Interior Minister this week she made it crystal clear that we intend to transfer as many minors as possible, who are eligible under the Dublin Regulation, before the start of the clearance.
"In addition, children who are eligible to come to the UK under the Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 must be looked after in safe facilities where their best interests are properly considered.
"Work is continuing on both sides of the Channel to ensure this happens as a matter of urgency."