THE director of Oxford-based charity Asylum Welcome has highlighted a little-known problem in Oxford – child refugees, arriving alone.

Kate Smart is one of a team of just seven staff running the charity in Magdalen Road, which provides support, food and activities to refugees in Oxford and their families.

In the past year she said the charity has had about 80 young people on its books, with the youngest lone arrival aged just 12 years old. She said: “We get a constant stream of unaccompanied children arriving in Oxford, often coming off the motorways and being dropped on the outskirts of the city.

“This happens all the time. The summer is known as ‘boat season’ and you get especially high numbers then.”

Youngsters are typically dropped off at service stations near the city. If found by the police they are referred to social services, who often in turn contact Asylum Welcome.

According to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR, there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2014. About 51 per cent of these were under 18, the highest figure for child refugees in more than a decade.

Oxfordshire county councillor John Tanner said unaccompanied minors who have arrived by plane end up in Oxford with no one to look after them.