Posted: 12 December 2017

Rebuilding the lives of child refugees

Last Christmas we were thrilled to partner with The Guardian and Observer to shine a light on the plight of child refugees and to raise vital funds to support them. One year on, we look back at how the money raised has been crucial in enabling us to reach more young people, giving them the support and warm welcome they need to make sure they get the best possible start to their new lives. 

Our obligation to help child refugees

The appalling violence and chaos of war inflicted on children’s lives – whether in Syria, Afghanistan, or elsewhere – has been beamed into our living rooms and is a constant reminder of the obligation we have to help protect the world’s most vulnerable young people.

These children have gone through inconceivable suffering; many raped, repeatedly sexually assaulted or have witnessed the murder of relatives, parents and friends. The devastating impact that these experiences have on their young lives is unimaginable.

Even when they reach these shores, for many their difficulties are far from over. Some children disappear never to be seen again. Others suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders and many live with the stress of awaiting decisions on their immigration status, which can have huge consequences for the rest of their lives.

Narrated by a child refugee from one of our services, the animation below gives voice to this often unheard group and explains why the money raised is so important. 

Reader's £1.75m for refugees - how it was spent

Our share of the £1.75m raised by the Guardian and Observer charity appeal has helped keep open vital services for young refugees and asylum seekers in Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and the West Midlands. These services offer a new lease of life to often traumatised child refugees adapting to new life in the UK.

Without this generosity from readers we would not have been able to continue to provide vital 1-1 and advocacy support. When child refugees arrive in the UK they are not only still dealing with the trauma they have been through, they are also acclimatising to a totally new culture and language while trying to navigate the complex asylum and care systems.

Our crucial support helps them to understand their rights in the UK and have a say in decisions affecting their lives.  This includes helping them to overcome difficulties in finding somewhere safe to live, and in accessing education, financial support and legal advice.  It may also involve helping them to access mental health support and understand risks like criminal and sexual exploitation.  

Recipients of the appeal: Ahsanullah’s story

We have worked with Ahsanullah since discovering him in a house for adult asylum seekers in Leeds.

He had fled Afghanistan and travelled alone across Europe after witnessing the Taliban shoot his father. He had endured many days here without food or safe accommodation and faced seemingly endless obstacles from imposed policies towards asylum seekers that added to his trauma and anxiety.

Ahsanullah Ahsas, child refugee, in Leeds Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Ahsanullah:  Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Last years Christmas appeal secured funding for Ahsanullah's project worker, Din Nazim, who helped Ahsanullah access rights and entitlements that many take for granted; such as an education, legal support, mentoring support and involvement in youth groups.

A year on Ahsannulah has been granted leave to remain in the UK - thanks in part to the awareness and funding raised by the Guardian and Observer appeal. 

Read his full story 

What next for child refugees?

With the remaining funding we want to secure the future of other services for young refugees and migrant children. We want to make sure that child refugees have their voices heard, so that the problems they face are understood, and that they receive the support they need from social workers, mental health and housing services.

But we want to do more than simply secure them their legal rights. We want them to adapt positively to our country, to make friends and to succeed.

By Louise Jones - Digital team

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