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Children seeking refuge not getting the support they need to recover from trauma

A coalition of charities have joined forces to call for fairer asylum system for refugee children.

23/06/23

Children seeking refuge not getting the support they need to recover from trauma

Children’s and refugee charities have joined forces to call on the government to introduce a fairer asylum system that protects and welcomes all child refugees.

Recent data shows almost a fifth (18%) of people applying for asylum in the UK last year were under 18.

The charities say, however, that a growing backlog of asylum claims, lack of access to sufficient support and an inconsistent application of immigration policies adds to the trauma already experienced by the children. They have warned this can seriously impact their mental health, and face difficulties with settling into school, racism and language barriers – all of which make integration into society harder.

There is also concern that the current fear of deportation could be used by exploiters as another way of keeping children and young people in their control.

The charities say solutions are desperately needed to make the asylum system work for children regardless of their immigration status, nationality or route to entry into the UK and help them recover from any trauma they have experienced.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said all children seeking safety in our country deserve to be met with care and compassion.

“It's vital that we stand firm in our commitment to uphold children's rights by ensuring that refugee children are welcomed and supported just like any other child in need in the UK.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that these children, whether they arrive alone or in families, are looked after and given the support they need to thrive in their new communities. We need an asylum system that is fair and that prioritises the welfare of children – not one that would see traumatised and vulnerable children locked up and in constant fear of being removed."

The call comes following the publication of a new report from containing recommendations for the government, as well as voluntary groups and local communities to improve the future prospects for children who come to the UK seeking safety. The report is supported by a coalition of charities working to support child refugees including The Refugee Council, Save the Children, Action for Children, the Children’s Society and NSPCC.

One measure suggested in the report is for the roll-out of ‘local welcoming hubs’ for displaced families.

“These hubs would work with local employers, colleges and schools and other services to support the integration of displaced people. Activities that hubs might offer include befriending projects and social activities, conversation clubs to help people practice their English and volunteering programmes for refugees themselves,” the report said.

Also recommended is an increase in specialist foster care, as well as assigning all separated children arriving in the UK a guardian.

Barnardo’s says these steps will allow local government to properly plan for their arrival and ensure they are offered the chance to integrate, thrive in school and develop skills they can give back to society.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Lynn Perry MBE said children need more support and protection.

“Children who have gone through unimaginable horrors and are seeking refuge in the UK are too often facing delays, detention and even hostility, and are not getting the support they need to recover from trauma.

“[All children] must be treated as children first and foremost, regardless of their immigration status. National Government has a responsibility to provide resourcing and leadership, with all agencies working together to make sure children arriving on our shores receive the right care.

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