In response to the Home Office consultation paper ‘Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children’ published today, Anna Reisenberger, acting Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“While containing some useful proposals, in many ways this paper misses the point.
“Children are children first and foremost. Unaccompanied children seeking asylum will of course have special needs and particular vulnerabilities – can you imagine what it is like to be separated from your family, arrive alone in a strange place where you can’t speak the language and don’t know anyone? Then imagine what that must be like for a child.
“Yet in this paper the immigration status of unaccompanied children seeking asylum seems to dictate everything about where they are looked after and how. For instance, proposals to take a child away from their foster family when they turn sixteen show that when it comes to immigration control, child welfare comes a poor second.
“Whilst we welcome the paper’s acknowledgement that there are problems with the current way decisions are made on an unaccompanied child’s asylum claim, it fails to address these, simply noting that New Asylum Model (NAM) is aimed at filling that role. We would argue that this is the crux of the matter – better decisions on children’s claims would provide essential grounding from which to build a system that serves the child’s best interests.
“Welfare support is well-legislated for as far as children are concerned and we should focus on making the system we already have work better for this group of children. Above all, any reforms of policy for unaccompanied children seeking asylum should start with what is in the best interests of the child.”