Social services departments failing refugee children

Many social services departments in Britain are providing
inadequate care to young people seeking asylum, according to a
report commissioned by The Refugee Council and Save the
Children, writes Clare Jerrom.

‘Separated Children in the UK’ finds the provision
of vital services to unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Britain
is a lottery, and highlights a general lack of co-ordination in the
provision of services.

Some areas of policy and practice in the UK are strong in
comparison to other European countries, but there are still areas
of significant concern.

Separated children are often locked up in detention centres and
many unaccompanied minors as young as 15 are expected to look after
themselves like adults.

Having fled persecution and torture, asylum seeking children
face racially motivated attacks in this country. The report points
to the anti-refugee stance adopted by some politicians and the
media that has contributed to hostility in some communities.

Many unaccompanied minors are only granted temporary immigration
status leaving them fearful of returning to their country of

The increase in barriers across Europe is also forcing children
into the hands of child smugglers and traffickers, in a desperate
bid to find safety and refuge.

The report highlights that separated children have no legal
guardians in the UK to represent their views and needs.

Mary Lally, of the Refugee Council, said: “It’s clear from
this report that separated refugee children are not getting the
same level of care as any other children would receive under UK
childcare legislation.”

Statistical data monitoring children asylum seekers was set up
in 1992 when 190 children applied for refugee status. In 1999,
there was a total of 3,349 applications by separated children and
45 per cent of those originated from Kosovo.

There are no figures relating to children not assisted by the
Refugee Council’s Panel of Advisers, or those who do not
apply for asylum.

Judy Lister, of Save the Children, said: “The UK currently lacks
a strategic approach to the reception and care of separated
children. This needs to be urgently addressed if we are to stop
vulnerable children falling through the net.”

The report calls for urgent closer co-ordination between the
home office, department of health and the department of education
and skills to ensure comprehensive and high quality care and
service delivery.

“What is needed above all is a willingness to effect change,
action to bring together the relevant government departments, local
authorities and voluntary agencies and the implementation of clear
nation-wide policies that treat separated children as children
first and asylum seekers or migrants second,” the report

Click here
for a press release on the report and an opportunity
to download the report.







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