A young asylum seeker who was detained four times by the Home Office told his story in a Channel 4 documentary broadcast yesterday (29 November 2010). In Dispatches: The Kids Britain Doesn’t Want, Mohibullah, a 16 year old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, described his ordeal in detention and the mental health problems he has suffered as a result. The programme also followed the experiences of other children brutalised by the asylum system in the UK, including a 10 year old Iranian boy and a young Ugandan woman.
Mohibullah is involved in an age dispute case with his local authority, and is supported by the Refugee Council’s Children’s section worker, Francesco Jeff in seeking to have the decision on his case overturned. So far this year, Jeff has succeeded in releasing 27 children from detention, who had originally been wrongly judged to be adults by their local authority or immigration officials - 71 per cent of the children in detention he has supported.
Despite the fact the government has committed to ending child detention, the Refugee Council is concerned that children whose ages have been disputed will continue to be detained until the process of age assessments is overhauled.
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said: “Whatever happens with the government’s review into child detention, a group of children that will still be detained are those whose ages have been disputed. From working with many age disputed children, it is clear they have been severely traumatised by their experiences in detention. It does not make sense that the government has recognised detaining children is harmful to their wellbeing, but continues to detain many of these age disputed children until they prove themselves not to be adults. This is both hypocritical and inhumane. It is imperative that these children are given the benefit of the doubt, so that their safety and wellbeing is put first.”