Children’s commissioner critical of Croydon asylum screening unit

Unaccompanied children applying for aslyum in the UK face unacceptable practices, a new report published today by the Children’s Commissioner finds.

Sir Al Aynsley-Green is calling for a redesign of the screening process after witnessing first hand the journey of children through Croydon Asylum Screening Unit (ASU).

The report claims current arrangements at the ASU fail to see these young people as vulnerable and traumatised or address their basic needs.

It reveals Sir Aynsley-Green and staff from his organisation, 11 MILLION, found some children were left hungry, thirsty and alone during the screening process.

There was nothing for the children to do during long waiting periods and no information was provided to help them understand the application procedures.

Despite improvements made last year with the introduction of a more child-friendly waiting area at the unit, the investigation found children were not accompanied by a responsible adult or interpreter at crucial points in the application process.

The children’s commissioner is now urging the Border and Immigration Agency to establish a dedicated post at the unit to address the welfare needs of children.

The report concludes that staff at the ASU are doing a difficult job but training is needed across the organisation to cater for the needs of vulnerable children.

Sir Aynsley-Green said: “We do not underestimate the importance, difficulty and sensitivity of screening. But this does not have to be a frightening, confusing or intimidating experience for children.”

Figures for 2006 showed more than 5,500 asylum applicants claimed to be unaccompanied children. Around 3,250 were accepted as children by immigration officers while the rest had their age disputed and were processed as adults.

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