Today, a new report has been published which highlights the need for unaccompanied asylum seeking children to be given guardians. Guardians would be able to guide children through the extremely complex and often hostile asylum system and would have legal powers to act in the child’s best interest.
Kamal arrived in the UK when he was just 14. Wrongly assessed as an adult, he was subsequently detained and suffered from poor legal advice. This is his story.
When I arrived I came to a port, I didn’t even know the word asylum. I was only 14 and I didn’t know about my rights. I was hungry and tired, I was even thirsty; but nobody gave me any drink or said I could rest. They didn’t look after me at all; they just asked me questions and then used it against me. I was confused and a child.
I should have been looked after from the start. They should have let me rest for a day or two before they interviewed me. They shouldn’t assume everyone knows about asylum and lawyers and rights – I didn’t know anything. They took my money and my fingerprints then detained me.
I got a legal representative after my interview and refusal. Having now learnt English and read the reports of my appeal hearing, I realise the lawyer and barrister did not represent my case well. The interpreter also did not recount the same story as I did but I didn’t realise that until later when I could understand English better.
This has all had a bad effect on me. I now have help from a specialist organisation helping people affected by torture and organised violence – they have found me a new legal rep.
If it wasn’t for the voluntary organisations I have been involved with I don’t know what I would have done.
My life was taken away for six years.