A small but significant number of children arrive without families or guardians and claim asylum on their own. Many of them have parents who have been killed or are imprisoned; some do not know the whereabouts of their families. They have often made long and dangerous journeys to reach a place of safety, fleeing war, political unrest and persecution. Having claimed asylum, they still have many challenges to face: going to the Home Office to explain their situation, enrolling at college, managing their money, settling in and making friends, and doing all of this in an unfamiliar language and an often hostile city. Many experience feelings of isolation, and have to cope with a very uncertain future. The vast majority of asylum claims made by unaccompanied minors fail and they are returned to their countries of origin.
We are proud to work with this group of young people, including them in all of our activities and ensuring that they have a safe, welcoming and sympathetic place to come each week. We have provided mentors and individual educational support and advocacy, accompanied them to appointments with solicitors, written letters of support for their asylum claims, and successfully challenged a local authority to increase its level of care for them. We have children from this group in our football team, youth club, study group, and ESOL class. One said that coming to us is ‘like having family’ and that ‘it gives me peace’.
However, we are also concerned about the level of care they receive and contributed a written response to the Joint Commission for Human Rights. Testimony was collected from a wide range of organisations and individuals, and a report has now been released. A summary was published in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/12/children-seeking-asylum-better-care and the full report can be seen here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201314/jtselect/jtrights/9/902.htm