Asylum-seeking children face ‘culture of doubt’ in the UK

Unaccompanied young people going through the asylum process are often left feeling confused and insecure, research has found, amid calls for greater resources for specialist services.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are subjected to “a culture of disbelief and suspicion” because of ongoing failings in the system, according to a report by the Children’s Society.

Despite some recent improvements, many of the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) practices still do not take the needs of children into account, found the report, Into the unknown: Children’s journey’s through the asylum process.

The charity spoke to 33 young people aged 13 to 20, who were at various stages of the asylum process. Many of those interviewed said there was no “responsible adult” present at their asylum interviews to act on their behalf and explain what was happening.

An absence of child-friendly information and a widespread culture of disbelief and disputes over children’s ages further increased young people’s confusion and sense of insecurity, the report said.

Sue Kent, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers, said: “Our members have often reported that lack of resources and training leads to a poor service for these children. Although there is recognition for the need for specialist services in areas where children may arrive in the country, these are limited and under extreme stress due to capacity and resource issues.

“Social workers report that to complete good assessments with any child, they need to build a trusting relationship. With children who have come from another country, this is doubly important, but far more time consuming. These children have a right to be safe, but social workers and other professionals are struggling to make it happen.”

The UKBA is currently investigating and improving its systems of information, advice and support for asylum applicants.

A spokesperson for the agency said: “We take our responsibility for the care of children very seriously. We have specially trained staff to handle their cases and the best interests of the child are at the heart of the decision making process.

“Work is already underway in many of the areas identified by the Children’s Society, but we will consider their report carefully.”

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