Our aim is to ensure that laws and policies help to keep young refugees and migrants safe and protect their rights as children, regardless of their immigration status or nationality.
Children’s best interests should be central to decisions made about them. This means making sure that they are healthy, have somewhere safe to live, have access to good quality legal support, are able to achieve in education and access out of school activities.
We are concerned about the lives of children separated from their families who don’t have a trusted adult looking after them as well as those migrant children still living with their families.
We make change by:
- working with central and local government, parliamentarians and the voluntary sector to identify problems and solutions that support refugee and migrant children
- working closely with our practitioners and researchers to ensure that the views of children and young people are heard by decision-makers.
Working together to achieve our aim
We are members of the Government's National Asylum Stakeholder Forum. We provide evidence to inquiries and select committees about the plight of refugee children, as well as raising awareness about the problems they face by speaking at events and conferences, and writing commentary for publications.
We work collaboratively with a range of charities to help refugee children. We co-chair the Refugee Children's Consortium, a group of over 30 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working collaboratively to ensure that the rights and needs of refugee children are promoted, respected and met in accordance with relevant domestic, regional and international standards.
In April 2013, the Government implemented changes to the legal aid system which means that separated or unaccompanied migrant children – those without a parent or guardian in this country – are no longer be able to get free support with their immigration cases. Our report, Cut Off From Justice: The impact of excluding separated migrant children from legal aid, focuses on this issue.
Around 3,000 children arrive in the UK alone every year seeking asylum. Our briefing Going it alone: Children in the asylum process describes the asylum process from the perspective of these children and is based on extensive consultation with young people. It highlights the barriers and unequal treatment they face as they struggle to navigate complex and adult systems to get the support they need. Without one consistent carer that can oversee, coordinate and guide them through such processes, these vulnerable children can fall through the gaps.
Our latest report Not just a temporary fix: Durable solutions for separated migrant children highlights that the long-term needs of these children are often forgotten about or avoided altogether. It calls for these children to have a ‘durable solution’ – a lasting outcome which addresses all of their needs, considers their own view and leads to the child successfully transitioning into adulthood, whether they remain in England or return to their country of origin.
We are also calling for a system of legal guardianship for these children. This would mean an independent guardian with legal authority would be there to support them to overcome language and cultural barriers and to know and access their rights by holding agencies to account.
Our joint report, Protecting children through guardianship: the costs and benefits of guardians for separated children with UNICEF UK finds that such a system could save money in the long term. You can also download the full report.
We have been concerned about the levels of destitution facing refugee and asylum-seeking children for many years.
Our report, I don’t feel human, experiences of destitution among young refugees and migrants, reveals that incredibly vulnerable young people are being left homeless and hungry. They are forced to resort to increasingly desperate means in order to survive.
We know from our practice that children are growing up in households without food, heating or toys, that mothers feel forced to prostitute themselves in order to survive, and that pregnant women cannot afford to eat or access vital healthcare. The Government recently reduced the rate of asylum support for children, which was already alarmingly low. This means children have faced a cut of £16.00 per week or almost 30%.
We are committed to ending child trafficking and work closely with partner organisations such as the campaign to end child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes – ECPAT UK – to realise this aim. Our report on hidden children brings to light some of the realities for these children.
Our joint report with the Refugee Council highlighted that child victims of trafficking need additional support and protection to help them escape exploitative situations. All too often, children involved in illegal activities due to coercion are treated as criminals rather than recognised as victims of trafficking and provided with the specialist welfare support they need in order to move forward in their lives.