West Sussex is set to temporarily take at least ten child refugees from Calais.
County council leader Louise Goldsmith explained that these were young people who had family connections in the UK, and would stay in the county for about 72 hours to rest.
Although ten children would be coming into West Sussex initially, she said this number would increase, as the Home Office was also looking at refugee camps in Greece and Italy.
She said: “These children will be coming into West Sussex for a short time. Ten children will be coming into the county now. We will be helping these young children who have been exposed to terrible things in these camps.”
James Walsh, leader of the Lib Dem group, said they had an ‘ongoing moral obligation to help to resettle these children who have been languishing in thee camps’.
But Sandra James, leader of the UKIP group, felt there was a ‘moral code’ on the issue but also a need to recognise the implications for West Sussex.
She asked Mrs Goldsmith if she was able to tell councillors how many refugees West Sussex would be physically taking.
Mrs Goldsmith replied: “In a nutshell, no.”
Mrs James added: “There will be a concern to the community that you have no answer to the number that may come to West Sussex.”
Responding to UKIP questions about national reports that some child refugees are in fact adults, Mrs Goldsmith said this would be something for the Home Office to administer.
Sue Mullins, leader of the Labour group, said she was ‘ashamed’ by some of the comments, adding: “How can we combat as a council the sort of lies and innuendo?”
Mrs Goldsmith answered by saying that West Sussex should be proud of the contribution it was making to solving the ‘humanitarian crisis’.
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