Government is failing young refugees

Young refugees say their concerns are not being taken seriously and that they have been ignored by government strategies, according to the Children’s Society.

The charity’s refugee and homelessness team interviewed 25 young refugees between 13- and 19-years-old in the London borough of Newham. They reported difficulties in accessing local services, unhelpful immigration procedures and problems due to frequent changes of accommodation.

A Children’s Society spokesperson said: “Young asylum seekers say they are effectively ignored before they attain their refugee status, yet they start to settle in the country as soon as they arrive – going to college, making friends. “They are not treated as young people by the Home Office, but they have needs particular to that age group. It makes it very difficult for them to navigate the asylum process.”

The Children’s Society estimated that around 2,000 unaccompanied minors enter the UK each year, but pointed out that many other young people are not counted as they arrive with families or guardians. The young refugee’s experience flies in the face of the government’s Integration Matters strategy, launched in 2005, which set out to improve awareness among all refugees about how to contact public services regardless of their English-language ability.

The Children’s Society is urging all local authorities to involve young refugees in their strategic planning and to develop young refugee forums to air complaints. They also want to see young refugees placed in stable accommodation and child-centred training for Home Office staff. The findings are available as a report, Making a new life in Newham, which will be launched on 22 June to coincide with National Refugee Week. Report author Bockari Stevens said: “There is more that can be done by statutory agencies and other organisations for the successful settlement of young refugees.”

Stephen Timms, chief secretary to the treasury and local MP, said: “The study highlights the barriers facing young refugees in Newham. If the barriers could be overcome, the transition could become much easier.”

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