Why young asylum seekers need a guardian

We’re supporting an inspiring group of young activists on their Distress Signals campaign — calling for all young asylum seekers entering  the country to have an independent guardian. We caught up with Delina, one of our campaign champions with lived experience of this issue who told us about her journey and why the campaign is so important.    

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Looking after well-being

Facing obstacles

My name is Delina. I am currently a civil servant and completing my Master’s in International Conflict. I left my country due to the Eritrean-Ethiopian border clash, which later turned into a full-scale war.

I arrived in the United Kingdom as an unaccompanied minor, in 2006, when I was 14 years old. I have endured many things unaccompanied minors fleeing war share, facing obstacles that seriously impact their mental health and overall well-being.

Girl with hat on looks into the distance

Difficult experience

First, I was taken to the Home Office. I still remember how extremely overwhelmed and anxious I felt when I was taken to an interview room, to be greeted with completely foreign faces.

I was then asked several questions, which triggered unsettling emotions. I had to continue with telling the stories I had probably not even come to terms with. Even though there was an interpreter who spoke my language, I struggled to understand what was being discussed, the immigration process, and what to expect next.  

I was soon placed in a foster family. I had a very difficult experience at the hands of my foster mother, and my social worker. It was clear to me that they were more concerned about ticking the boxes, and following procedures, rather than showing any concern in understanding what my needs were at the time.

This had a negative impact on my mental health, and I suffered quietly. For two years after my arrival, I hid in my bedroom, crying most nights.

Turning to the church

girl standing in front of stained glass window looking up

A guiding light

I was lucky that I was granted a refugee status shortly after my arrival. However, during the process, I struggled to understand the system, processes and professionals around me. At the age of 16, I left my foster family, and entered shared accommodation.

I became part of a church, which later played a pivotal support role in my life. I had people to guide me through the system. I would have not been where I am, had it not been for the support they provided me with. 

Adjusting to a new life

I strongly believe unaccompanied minors and young people should have an independent guardian to help them start life in a new country: to provide them with all necessary guidance and directions through not only the asylum process, but also to help them adjust to their new life, to integrate into society, introduce them to social opportunities, equip them with day to day life skills, help them access services, and assist them with making informed decisions about their future.

Moreover, most unaccompanied young people, like myself, frequently experience trauma before arriving. A guardian can be there for young people with mental health issues.

A guardian could save a young person’s life.

young girl protesting with her fist in the air

Support our youth-led campaign

We are campaigning for all unaccompanied and separated children to have a guardian.

Please sign our petition. Help young people get the support they need to build the future they deserve.