17 Jan 2012

Enver Solomon, Policy Director at The Children’s Society, said:

'This report provides clear and depressing evidence that the welfare of children has not been prioritised when they arrive on our shores.  Children turn up at Dover often after journeys spanning many months - tired, traumatised and hungry. They’re in need of a friendly face and a safe place to stay. Instead they are detained and interrogated. 

'It’s shocking to hear that up until very recently some of these vulnerable children, including potential victims of human trafficking, were being ‘bounced back’ to France without any regard for their safety and best interests.  It’s good to know this practice has now been stopped, however we remain concerned for children whose age has been disputed and therefore could end up being sent back to France.
 
'Through a Freedom of Information (FOI) act request last year, The Children’s Society discovered that 697 children travelling to the UK were detained at ports in the South East over a four-month period, including almost 200 who were travelling alone.  Children were being interviewed alone and without support, and their confused and tired answers can directly affect their immigration claim. This is simply unacceptable.
 
'As the Commissioner points out, it would be easy for the child to be referred to social services straight away, allowed to eat a balanced hot meal, sleep and then be screened according to proper procedures with a legal representative, responsible adult and an interpreter present. Such safeguards would not just protect the welfare of the child, but also encourage faith in the entire process, leading to more robust and reliable decisions on their asylum and immigration claim.'
 
Ends
 
More information:
 
Notes to the editor
For further information and interviews please contact Hannah Ward on 020 7841 4424 or hannah.ward@childrenssociety.org.uk.  For out of hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.
 
For copies of the report please contact the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) 
 
About The Children’s Society
The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.