Posted: 28 August 2015

Separated children need more than a temporary fix

With migration increasing across Europe, the needs of children who have become separated from their parents or carers once outside their country of origin have never been more pertinent.

In the UK, thousands of these children are seeking protection from persecution, war and violence, while others may also be victims of human trafficking and exploitation. Some will have been abandoned by their parents or carers or have become orphaned. 

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Tell the Government to keep supporting children who have fled war and persecution.

Our new report, Not just a temporary fix: Searching for durable solutions for separated migrant children investigates what lasting outcomes are available for separated migrant children in this country and what policies and practices the Government has in place to help protect and foster their long-term interests. Some of the report’s findings are discussed below.

Children’s best interests not carefully considered

Despite UK law relating to children’s welfare and child rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child stating that children’s best interests should be a ‘primary consideration’ when governments make decisions about children’s lives, this is only given tokenistic reference in many cases.

Social workers also said that there is no clear and consistent process for deciding what is in a child’s best interest, so often it is done in an ad hoc manner or with not enough time to do a thorough job.

Planning the future with a temporary status

Many separated migrant children are looked after by the local authority, which has a duty to make sure that each child transitions successfully into adulthood when they leave care. This process works in parallel to decisions the Home Office makes about a child’s immigration status.

This creates pressures that are difficult for the care system to deal with. For example, many separated children are refused asylum but granted a temporary form of leave to remain. One social worker told us: ‘We can’t make a permanent plan for these children because the overriding factor is immigration status.’

‘Most of my clients are destitute [and] a lot have had their support terminated.'

Care leavers left destitute

This temporary form of leave means that many young people are left without a regular immigration status upon turning 18 which affects their access to many services such as housing, employment and education. One NGO case worker told us: ‘Most of my clients are destitute [and] a lot have had their support terminated. I sometimes find that [the local authority] send a message by email and change the locks [on the young person’s door]. Really dark stuff.’

The Home Office is eager to return those who have no immigration status to their countries of origin but in practice young people are not returning by themselves and are not being forcibly removed from the UK by the authorities. This drives some young people to disengage with their local authorities and remain in the UK, exposing them to abuse and exploitation.

What needs to change?

Significant reforms are needed to make sure that decisions made about separated children are also lasting and have their long-term best interests at heart.

We are calling on the Government to implement a formal process to assess separated migrant children’s best interests which would be used when making decisions about their lives, whether they remain in the UK or return to their country of origin.

 
By Lucy Gregg - Policy team
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Tell the Government to keep supporting children who have fled war and persecution.
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Posted: 1 January 1970

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Not just a temporary fix: Durable solutions for separated migrant children

Posted: 27 August 2015