Posted: 17 April 2018

Child refugees aren't getting the support they need

Each year thousands of children end up in the UK on their own having fled war, violence or persecution. The recent report on unaccompanied children from the body responsible for monitoring the work of the Home Office once again highlighted the problems that children face when they get here.

These young people have suffered unimaginable horrors at home and on their journey, yet this doesn’t always end when they get to the UK. Being separated from their parents and siblings, even seeing their loved ones killed or harmed leaves them deeply traumatised. Many may not speak English; or have ever been to school. They may have been exploited or abused along the way. The pain and confusion is overwhelming.

‘I was 16 so they are asking me like “do you need a lawyer or something?” and I’m like I don’t know!

I don’t know what a solicitor is, I don’t even know the meaning, so I don’t know how to answer.’

- Anne

Their problems must be understood

For child refugees, reaching the UK should mean reaching safety. We support children on their own here in our own specialist services around the country, including in London, Birmingham, Coventry, Leeds and Manchester. Our advocacy, orientation and youth groups help them to stay safe and rebuild their lives.

We want to make sure that their voices are heard and the problems they face are understood. That’s why we arranged interviews with young people we are supporting about their experiences, which formed an important part of the evidence in the report.

The reality of being an unaccompanied teenager

Many young people have their age disputed, stopping them from getting support available to children and leaving them at risk of homelessness and exploitation.

‘Social service asked my foster mum to throw me out on the street.' 'They say because now they done the age assessment and also because you are illegal immigrant that they don’t want to have anything to do with me.’ Christine

Having their age disputed can also mean that children end up in immigration detention or in asylum accommodation with adults.

Even if children do become looked after by local authorities, as they approach their 18th birthday, many face destitution or being returned to a country where they may not be safe or have a secure future..

The UK must become a safe place for these children

It’s encouraging that the Government accepts so many of the report’s recommendations. Much needs to change to make the UK a safe place for these young people.

We are fighting for refugee and migrant children to get the help they need from legal aid, effective social care, mental health services and housing.

Together we can keep more refugee and migrant children safe from danger and give them a chance to succeed. Because no child should feel alone in this country, whatever their nationality.

YOU CAN HELP CHILD REFUGEES 

By Ilona Pinter - Policy team
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