More than 3000 children arrive in the UK alone every year seeking asylum. Although we have seen improvements in recent years, for many of the children and young people, the process of claiming asylum is a very frightening and bewildering experience.
The trauma they have suffered prior to arriving in the UK and the difficulties they face in seeking protection alone as well as acclimatising to a new culture, language and way of life, all have a significant impact on their well-being. Young people tell us that they are not getting the information they need about the asylum process in a format that is accessible to them.
This leaves them feeling powerless and insecure about vital decisions that affect their lives and their futures. They find it difficult to complain about the treatment they receive because there are no clear channels through which they can do this and they are anxious that any complaints they make will have a negative impact on their asylum claim.
Please learn more about these young people's plight by reading our reports Into the Unknown and Going it Alone.
Into the unknown
Children seeking safety in the UK on their own are subjected to a culture of disbelief and suspicion, which leaves them feeling frightened and confused, our latest report reveals. Into the Unknown: Children’s journeys through the asylum process found that, despite some recent improvements, many of the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) practices fail to take the needs of children fleeing war, turmoil and violence into account.
The report highlights the agency's failure to make sure that children understand what is happening to them in the asylum process. The absence of child-friendly information, a wide-spread culture of disbelief and disputes over their age are central to increasing young people’s confusion and sense of insecurity.
This causes already traumatised children greater anxiety, with immediate and potentially long-term consequences for their well-being. Worryingly, there are no systems in place for the UKBA to measure the effect of the asylum system on children’s well-being.
Going It Alone
Our Going It Alone: Children in the asylum process report, published in 2007, highlights the barriers and unequal treatment children face as they struggle to navigate complex and adult systems to get the support they need. This policy briefing describes the asylum process from the perspective of the unaccompanied children, and is based on extensive consultation with the young people.
We are calling for a system of legal guardianship for all unaccompanied 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.