Giving a voice to young people seeking safety
Too often, when young asylum seekers, arrive in the UK unaccompanied, they are left to fend for themselves. They feel alone. They may have escaped conflict. They might not speak the language. On top of this, they have to navigate a confusing immigration process. But a group of young people known as the Youth-Led Commission for Separated Children (YLCSC) are fighting to end this. They want all children who arrive alone to get a legal guardian. Someone to listen to them, support them and give them a voice. In a special two-part podcast we spoke to TJ, Ayo, Ope, Ibrahim and Phoenix about their life experiences and why it’s important for them to be part of this campaign. Here is what they had to say.
listening to young people
Someone to have your back
TJ - ‘It’s very difficult when you first move to a different country. Trying to learn the language, figuring out how it’s going to affect you and how it’s going to impact your life. That is why we thought, if you could have someone who’s going to stay with you from the day you arrive in the UK until you get your status, that would be very helpful. Every time you need them, they’re there’
‘For me, I don’t need a guardian anymore, but I know how it feels. I know it’s very difficult without one.’
Giving time for asylum seekers
I'm giving everything to make sure other people are not going to feel the way I felt.
Legal guardian for asylum seekers
Ope - Something that really makes me want to do this is just remembering how I felt when I was in that same position. If I had had someone to help me, like a guardian, that would have been much better.’
'At this point in time they are taking young asylum seekers to hotels. I feel for them. I can’t imagine what made the government think about sending them there.'
Phoenix - ‘Getting passed from one hand to another without knowing if you are going to see that social worker again is difficult. I went through the asylum process for three years. But when I asked The Children’s Society if they could help me change the lawyer, I was granted leave to remain in six months.’
That’s how powerful it is to have someone that cares for you and listens to you.
Young people integrating
Ibrahim - ‘You are trying to learn and go to college or school, trying to integrate. But at the same time you are struggling because usually six months is the period in which the Home Office should reply to you, but it can go on for two years. Having a legal guardian would help young people understand their rights.’
Phoenix - ‘Children as young as thirteen have already experienced a lot of traumas in their own countries and then they have to take a horrendous journey to come to the UK. It may last days or weeks or months. What they experience coming here is beyond imagination.'
The trauma doesn't stop
The sad truth is that after they arrive in the UK, the trauma doesn’t stop. It continues and gets deeper and deeper.
Ayo - ‘There are lots of negative things in the media saying young asylum seekers are coming here to steal jobs. But they are humans too. I'd rather know about where they have talent. Tell me what they can bring to the community, into society.'
TJ – ‘There are a lot of asylum seekers in this country doing great things, but the media doesn’t show this. People see in the news that they are the ones coming to this country to take this and take that.’
People see you as a document, they don’t see you as a human.
‘Every young person has a dream. They might want to be a journalist, or a lawyer. But they need to have that someone to explain this to. With that support they can achieve something great in life.'
Calling for change
Legal guardians play a crucial role in the lives of unaccompanied child asylum seekers. These children don't have a choice but to flee in search of safety and protection in a foreign country, often facing many challenges and obstacles along the way.
TJ, Ayo, Ope, Ibrahim and Phoenix know this better than anyone. That is why they are calling for a legal guardian for all these young people as soon as they arrive in the UK. Someone to provide a stable and supportive adult presence. Represent their best interests during the complicated and broken asylum process. And most of all, be there for them when no one else is.
Read more about this inspiring group and send your message of support. Also listen to the full podcast below.