To ensure that children in the immigration process are kept safe, that their rights as children are upheld regardless of their immigration status or nationality, including the provision of health care, housing, education, legal support and the right to family life.
Every year around 3,000 children arrive in the UK alone and apply for asylum. Many others arrive with their families. Often traumatised, they may have fled persecution, violence or torture and experienced serious disturbance in their lives. Refugee children are among the most disadvantaged and discriminated against children in England. They can struggle to access housing, support, legal advice and education.
In recognition of the particular vulnerabilities of children, international law and policy places the needs of children above the requirements of immigration control. In 2008, the government lifted its reservation to the application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to asylum-seeking children, marking a very significant shift. This meant that children seeking asylum are entitled to the same protection and access to services as other children and benefit from the 'best interest' rule, under article 3 of the convention, in the same way as British children. However, change is still slow and children in the asylum and immigration system still face unequal treatment.
Our aim is one that seeks equality, inclusion and child-centredness for all refugee children, to ensure that children in the asylum and immigration process are treated as children first and that decisions are made in their best interests.
Key areas for change
Destitution: children and young people should never be forced into destitution or absolute poverty as a result of the immigration and asylum process, and should be supported throughout the process including at key transition periods such as during age assessments, after they turn 18 and when they have come to the end of the process.
Returns: the return of a child should only take place if it is proven to be in that child’s best interests and open to independent scrutiny.
Asylum process: the process for deciding children and young people's claims for protection will be child-centered, and they will receive all the support, advice and representation necessary for their claims to be judged fairly.
Education: all refugee and migrant children will have appropriate education placements in mainstream schools, have the support they need in order to learn effectively and have the opportunity to participate in activities in and out of school.