THE safety of vulnerable teenage asylum seekers is being put at risk because of an “unbelievably unpleasant and racist” campaign against the opening of a reception centre for them in Kent, it has been claimed.

Officials are preparing to ask for police protection for the youngsters amid escalating anger among residents of the southern county at what they see as a huge influx of illegal immigrants into the area.

The new centre, in the seaside town of Whitstable, will not open for another three weeks and is planned to be a temporary solution to the doubling of unaccompanied child asylum seekers arriving in Kent from Europe in the last month.

Housed in a disused old people’s home, it will provide short-term accommodation for 40 boys aged between 16 and 17 from the moment they arrive in England.

Over a six-week period Kent social services workers will give them health checks, mental health assessments, a cultural awareness course and try to assess their real age before them moving to “supported accommodation” while their asylum claims are processed.

A similar centre has been located in the nearby town of Ashford for eight years, housing 110 teenagers, without any problems and strong interaction with the surrounding community.

But local councillors have been taken aback by the scale of opposition to the latest plans.

On Saturday more than 50 parents and protesters gathered outside Whitstable Library with placards and England flags.

Local protesters were also joined by people from the South East Alliance group. some of whom covered their faces while staging the event.

A Facebook page opposed to the home has attracted more than 1,000 “likes” in two weeks and at least one post has been reported to police for incitement to racial hatred.

Last week a meeting between council leaders and parents of a nearby school had to be suspended because of racist comments by a man who attended the event and had to be evicted.

Anonymous letters have been sent to residents claiming that the boys will break into local homes and “rape your women” while another online post featured a picture of a young boy in Syria purportedly beheading someone in an IS-backed killing and said: “Coming to Whitstable soon.”

Peter Oakford, Kent County Council cabinet minister for specialist children’s services, said: “It has been very sad and unbelievably unpleasant in the last week or so.

“These are very vulnerable young people – they are on their own, have come from warzones where some of them have witnessed the murder of family members and the destruction of their homes.

“They have nothing. “I have been shocked at some of the comments that have been made and I am very concerned for how these young people are going to be viewed and treated when they do arrive.

“We are going to have to work very, very closely with the police and the local residents to ensure the safety of these young people.”

He said that at the meeting 75 per cent of parents were opposed to the centre even when given assurances that the teenagers would be accompanied at all times and extra fencing was offered between the school and the reception building.

Victoria Madden, 32, a mother of five who lives close to the proposed centre and whose children go to the school said: "Our concern is the location. It is so close to the school and these asylum seekers who are coming are 16,17 possibly older.

"They are not children - they are young men. They might be traumatised and we just don't know how they are going to react or behave.

"People say we are uneducated and racist and have no humanity but that's not true. We just don't think this is the right location for them."

Kent officials said this week that they are struggling to cope with around 1,000 children and teenagers under 18 who have arrived in the county, unaccompanied and claiming asylum in the last few weeks.

On Thursday the Home Office finally agreed to help the area with the influx and is considering a national dispersal plan for children around the country, including more foster homes and reception centres.

But opponents claim that the opening of the home, which is next to a children’s nursery, primary school and an old people’s day centre, is a threat to local safety.

Ashley Clark, a retired police officer and Conservative councillor for the area, said: “I am concerned for the for the local community.

“The location is irresponsible and inappropriate. These are illegal immigrants who are 16 plus and may be older than they say they are.

“We don’t know what we are letting ourselves in for. We don’t know what their previous convictions are.”

He added: “The ‘refugee brigade’ will say that they are children but for me common parlance for a child means someone under 14. These are young men – adults – we don’t know how they will be able to control themselves and there is a school and a nursery very close by.

“We know from experience that young men come to this country on their own and next thing they have got someone pregnant and under Article Eight of the Human Rights Act they are claiming a right to a family life.

“This is not racism – this is real life.”