Child refugees abandoned at service station

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Asylum-seeking children found jumping off the back of lorries at Newport Pagnell services has increased sixfold in the past year.

Last year alone six migrant children were found at the M1 services, without their parents, or another adult. So far this year that number has soared to 36.

The youngsters have now been settled with foster families across Milton Keynes, but the sudden increase has put “severe pressure” on local services.

The revelation comes as the leader of Milton Keynes Council announced plans to welcome refugees fleeing conflict in Syria. The council expects to settle between 20 and 50 refugees in the city.

But as Milton Keynes faces its own homelessness crisis – with up to 400 people on the housing waiting list – a councillor has called on the city to “look after its own”.

Tory veteran Andy Dransfield said: “Charity begins at home. We could do the greatest good for our own if we think about this practically and don’t rule with our hearts over our heads.

“We were all touched by the picture of the poor three-year-old boy who drowned, but that is just representative of hundreds, if not thousands of children who have drowned and their bodies never found.

“There is no way we can help all of those people.”

Mr Dransfield, vice-chairman of children’s services, added: “For every Syrian family we take on, it means we won’t be able to help a homeless family who have lived in Milton Keynes all their lives.

“Of the hundreds of thousands of refugees the number we could help would just be a drop in the ocean.

“But, if we used those homes to place homeless families in MK, it would have a huge impact and really make a difference.”

However council leader Pete Marland believes Milton Keynes could help both refugees and the homeless if funding is sourced from the government.

He is now calling on the community to get behind the cause and offer to house refugees in their spare room – despite not being able to do so himself. He said:“MK is a place many thousands of people have come to in the past looking for a better life.

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“I believe that as a city we should be prepared to take our fair share of people who need safety and security at a time of need.

“We can’t solve the crisis, but it shouldn’t be turned into a choice between refugee children in boats and people from MK.”

On Wednesday, councillors will discuss the urgent issue while officers research how the generous gesture will be impacted by costs.

To offer accommodation call MK Council Housing Options Team on 01908 253481 or 01908 252937 and select option 2.