The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) has done a u-turn and issued guidance to its employees on their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children caught in the immigration, asylum and customs systems.
While the 2004 Children Act stated it was the duty of all bodies that work with children to prioritise their safety and welfare, the UKBA opted out at the time, saying the legislation would prevent them fulfilling their necessary duties.
However, a parliamentary statement from Phil Woolas, minister for state borders and immigration, said that section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 would come into force today which would ensure all UKBA functions were carried out with the need to promote the welfare of children. The UK Border Agency has also written some guidance on the duty.
Lisa Nandy, chair of the Refugee Children’s Consortium at the Children’s Society, said it was recent pressure regarding the plight of asylum children that led to the UKBA changing its stance as well as cases such as that of Adeoti Ogunsola, the 10-year-old failed asylum seeker who tried to commit suicide while in detention.
Nandy said the main concern now was the government’s next move.
“The actual impact depends on what they do next,” she said. “They’re written some guidance and that looks fine, but what we don’t want is for that to just sit on the shelf. They really need to be proactive about this issue.”
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