A report published yesterday (10 April) by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner reveals that some children who arrive alone in the UK seeking asylum face a struggle to get their voices heard in a system designed to deal with adults.
Children and young people who claim asylum are placed in the care system until they turn 18 but if their claims fail they are then required to leave the UK. This interrupts their education and disrupts their lives.
Having learned English and settled in the UK, they are then asked to return to countries they have not seen since childhood, where languages are spoken which they may not be able to write.
The Refugee Council says the report shows the uncertainty these young people face as their stay in the UK progresses, causing them stress and anxiety. The report recommends that they should be provided greater stability whilst in education or training, making them better equipped to establish themselves when they are then made to leave the UK.
The Children’s Commissioner’s report recommends that this group of young people’s permission to remain should be aligned with care leaving legislation to allow them to complete their education or training.
This would provide the vital grounding they need to progress with their lives successfully after leaving the UK, taking with them skills that could benefit the countries to which they are returned.
Refugee Council Policy Officer Judith Dennis said: "Every year, children arrive in the UK completely alone, often having survived dangerous, traumatic journeys. These children grow up here; often achieve well in school and then find themselves confused and frightened after they are abandoned by the care system when they turn 18.
"This report is further evidence that the system is letting young people down. For all care leavers, the path to independence, both practical and emotional, is a long one and does not end on a person’s 18th birthday.
"It’s essential that the Government treats those who are not found to meet the narrow definition of a refugee humanely, and supports them while they are here.”