Children newly arrived in this country have been effectively
removed by the law from the protection of the welfare state leaving
them much more vulnerable to abuse, according to evidence to the
Victoria Climbie inquiry, writes Frances
The Family Rights Group told the inquiry: “It is clear to us
that black and minority ethnic children face much greater
difficulties in accessing support when needed and therefore are
considerably more at risk than their white counterparts.
The group was one of three organisations to present evidence to
the second seminar of the inquiry – on the question of
identification. It said asylum seekers and children subject to
immigration controls were particularly vulnerability to danger,
including serious abuse.
Through its Black and Ethnic Minorities Advice Agencies project
– which provides specialist support to small community groups
advising black families – it has found that in many social
services departments there is a belief that asylum seeker children
and their families are not entitled to any support under the
“They appear to be treated as a group apart from other families
seeking help for children in need,” according to FRG chief
executive Robert Tapsfield, who called for the act to be amended so
that asylum seeker and refugee children are by definition treated
as children in need by local authorities.
Tapsfield’s evidence that recently arrived children like
Victoria Climbie were at very high risk was supported by Modupe
Debbie Ariyo, co-ordinator of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse
(AFRUCA). Ariyo submitted in evidence to the inquiry that while the
African community is as committed as every other community in the
UK to the protection of the rights and welfare of its children.
“there are some fundamental issues that might prevent the
fulfilment of this to the detriment of the child”.
Ariyo pointed to a strong belief in physical punishment among
Africans as a way of instilling discipline in children. She said
that while most parents and guardians are able to maintain the
principle of ‘reasonable chastisement’, it is possible for abusers
to inflict “untold physical and psychological harm on the child”
under the guise of discipline.