The Refugee Council today welcomes new legislation that will finally ensure all immigration staff are responsible for the safety and welfare of children in the asylum system in the UK. The charity warns, however, that this new duty is just a start, and that government policies at odds with the new legislation, including the detention of children for immigration purposes, must now also be urgently revised.
From today, after a sustained period of lobbying by the Refugee Council and other asylum and children’s charities, Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act will come into force, requiring all UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff to safeguard and promote the welfare of children seeking asylum.
Despite this being a positive step to improving the safeguarding of children in the asylum system, the Refugee Council is now calling for further policy changes and developments to reflect this duty. The charity is urging the Government to introduce an asylum process that recognises children’s needs, to end child detention, and to provide childcare in all UKBA centres to enable parents seeking asylum to discuss traumatic experiences with officials without their children being present in order to protect the children themselves.
Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council says:
“We welcome this acknowledgement from the UK Border Agency that they should take the safety and welfare of children seriously. We have been calling for this duty to be introduced since the Children Act 2004 was debated in parliament, so we are optimistic that the introduction of Section 55 signals a change of attitude in how children are treated in the asylum system.
This new duty, however, is only a start. There are still many gaps and policies in place that contradict the principles of Section 55 – one being the policy of detaining children for immigration purposes which seriously damages the mental and physical wellbeing of children. Child detention must end without delay, and the Government must now commit to ensuring its policies reflect the duty we owe to children seeking asylum in this country.”