Campaigns Refugees

Fighting for a better life for child asylum seekers

Figures published in September 2016 show that there were at least 4,156 children seeking asylum without parents or guardians and cared for by 147 councils on 31 March 2016, compared with 2,569 the year before. 

Unaccompanied asylum seekers are vulnerable to trafficking, in addition to the emotional trauma their lone status exerts on them.

The Government has promised a strategy to deal with unaccompanied asylum seekers next May but in the meantime 1000s of vulnerable children are being supported by local authorities whose budgets are continuing to reduce.

The Government must do more to ensure speedy reunification of lone asylum seekers by allowing unaccompanied refugee to act as sponsors for their parents. In the meantime the Government should ensure they are appointed an independent guardian.

The Government must also do more to more to ensure local authorities are equipped to care for unaccompanied child asylum-seekers.

Thee are the three things that I am fighting for.

Key facts (Updated December 2016)

  • In 2015 88,245 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the EU, including 3,045 in the UK. Q1 and Q2 figures of 2016 are down on Q3 and Q4 of 2015 but still up on the same quarter in the previous year

  • These children are vulnerable to the actions of smugglers and human traffickers, and it is conservatively estimated that at least 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children are currently missing in the EU. The Refugee Youth Service said it could not locate a third of the 179 children it had been tracking since authorities bulldozed the Jungle Camp last month (October)

  • Children who have family links have been admitted to the UK under the Dublin regulation - which requires evidence that they have relatives here who can care for them.

  • Others, without family ties, have arrived under "Dubs amendment" rules which allow particularly vulnerable children - such as girls and those under 13 - refuge in the UK.  Update the Government has limited the Dubs scheme to 350 as of February 2017 so this route will not be open for very much longer. [Updated Feb 13th 2017.]

  • The Government has promised to publish a strategy on unaccompanied asylum seekers by May 2017

  • The Government will resettle 3,000 vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa over the course of the parliament

Update 18th January 2017

Shabana has written to the Minister to ask for action to support unaccompanied child refugees

Dear Edward Timpson MP I am writing to ask the Government to take further action in relation to unaccompanied child refugees. In 2015 88,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the EU; over 3,000 of these applications were made in the UK. These children are hugely vulnerable to the actions of smugglers and human traffickers and I am deeply concerned that their well being is not being sufficiently protected by the current legislative framework. I would like the Minister to consider the following two proposals to help protect unaccompanied child refugees. 1) Appointing independent guardians for all unaccompanied migrant children. These guardians should be independent, have statutory powers and be able to work across all areas that affect an unaccompanied child’s life. I do not believe the current framework of social workers, Independent Reviewing Officers and representatives from the Refugee Council’s children panel are able to suffiently take on this role. The Government clearly accepts that independent guardians can be valuable as they already exist to support children who have been trafficked. This role should be extended to all unaccompanied children, particularly given the high prevalence of unaccompanied children going missing from care. 2) Providing refugee children with family reunion rights. As it stands these children, who the Government accepts cannot return home for some time, will be entering an already stretched care system. Surely it would be far better for that child, and for the care system, to have their parents in the UK to support them. This would bring us into line with all other European Union (with the exception of Denmark) countries so would not markedly create a “pull” factor. The UK would simply be coming into line with other EU nations. I look forward to your response.

Best wishes Shabana Mahmood MP

Updated 3rd Feb 2017

Useful information from the local Government association regarding the shortfall in Government financing of unaccompanied child asylum seekers.

"The Government increased the daily funding rates for UASCs from 1 July 2016 to £114 a day for under 16s and £91 a day for 16 to 17-year-olds. Our members tell us this is still not sufficient to meet the full costs. This report from the Association of Directors of Children's Services<http://adcs.org.uk/assets/documentation/ADCS_UASC_Report_Final_FOR_PUBLICATION.pdf> contains examples of the shortfall (page 27). Our Chairman Lord Porter recently tabled a written question regarding the report's findings<http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2017-01-10/HL4519/> and we're awaiting the Government's response."
 

Updated 5th Feb 2017

http://www.shabanamahmood.org/node/815 More information can be found here from the House of Commons Library about the relationship between local authorities and central government.

Update 13th Feb 2017

Read Shabana's response to the Government's decision to scrap teh Dubs scheme http://www.shabanamahmood.org/node/816

 

Videos from Lesvos, 2015

Child refugee campaign update

  • Background information about unaccompanied child refugees, local authorities and Government

    Note from House of Commons Library Jan 31st 2016

    Adults are dispersed across the UK so that no one area is overburdened by the obligation of supporting asylum seekers. There are three providers of accommodation for asylum seekers: Serco, G4S and Clearsprings. Each has a COMPASS (Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services) contract awarded in 2012 and covering two regions. Information on these COMPASS contracts is available on the Contract Finder website.

    As the Local Government Association (LGA) notes in a “one-stop” webpage on unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), “Unaccompanied children enter the care of a council as a looked after child and have the same rights to help and support as a child who enters the care system for any other reason”.  The Children’s Legal Centre has published a factsheet entitled Services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (September 2013) which provides information on the types of local authority support available to UASC.

    In terms of funding for the placement of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), as with adults this too comes from the Home Office.  In October 2016, the Home Office published Funding to local authorities Financial year 2016/17 – Home Office funding: Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) which “sets out the terms under which the Home Office will make funding available to local authorities in respect to their costs of supporting Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) during the financial year 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017” (p3, section 1).  The LGA commented that “although we are continuing to press for full funding, we have seen some important concessions from Government in response to sustained and strong lobbying” – details of recent changes are set out in section 4 of its “one-stop” webpage.

    It has been reported that Kent County Council, and also the London Borough of Croydon, have been dealing with large numbers of UASC arriving in their local authority areas.  Although, as noted above, funding was provided by the Home Office, Kent in particular faced logistical issues in terms of being able to provide all UASC with accommodation; as Kent Online reported in January 2016, “Vulnerable children from Kent are having to be cared for outside the county because of the influx of asylum seeker children, it has been claimed. Social services chiefs say they have had no option but to place local children away from the county as the problem of large numbers of asylum seeker children arriving in Kent goes on”.

    As a result, in the Immigration Act 2016 (sections 69 to 73) the Government made provision for the voluntary dispersal ofchildren to other local authorities.   In a written parliamentary answer given in October 2016, the Home Office Minister, James Brokenshire, said:

    We introduced the Voluntary National Transfer Scheme on 1 July to ensure a more equitable distribution of UASC across the country. Over 100 UASC have been transferred so far.

    We have consulted with every region in England, Scotland and Wales on their capacity. If we are to make the voluntary transfer scheme a success we need more local authorities to participate in the scheme and offer places for unaccompanied children from councils which are caring for disproportionately high numbers.

    [PQ 46928 14 October 2016]

    In a press release when the Voluntary National Transfer Scheme was launched, the Government stated that it had “increased the amount of funding that it will provide to local authorities caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, with annual support for each child aged under 16 rising from £34,675 to £41,610”.  A “Transfer Flow Chart” published by the Home Office shows the process of transferring a UASC under the Scheme – more information can be found in the Government’s Interim National Transfer Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children 2016-17 (version 0.8).

     

     
  • Background information about unaccompanied child refugees, local authorities and Government

    Note from House of Commons Library Jan 31st 2016

    Adults are dispersed across the UK so that no one area is overburdened by the obligation of supporting asylum seekers. There are three providers of accommodation for asylum seekers: Serco, G4S and Clearsprings. Each has a COMPASS (Commercial and Operational Managers Procuring Asylum Support Services) contract awarded in 2012 and covering two regions. Information on these COMPASS contracts is available on the Contract Finder website.

    As the Local Government Association (LGA) notes in a “one-stop” webpage on unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), “Unaccompanied children enter the care of a council as a looked after child and have the same rights to help and support as a child who enters the care system for any other reason”.  The Children’s Legal Centre has published a factsheet entitled Services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (September 2013) which provides information on the types of local authority support available to UASC.

    In terms of funding for the placement of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), as with adults this too comes from the Home Office.  In October 2016, the Home Office published Funding to local authorities Financial year 2016/17 – Home Office funding: Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) which “sets out the terms under which the Home Office will make funding available to local authorities in respect to their costs of supporting Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) during the financial year 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017” (p3, section 1).  The LGA commented that “although we are continuing to press for full funding, we have seen some important concessions from Government in response to sustained and strong lobbying” – details of recent changes are set out in section 4 of its “one-stop” webpage.

    It has been reported that Kent County Council, and also the London Borough of Croydon, have been dealing with large numbers of UASC arriving in their local authority areas.  Although, as noted above, funding was provided by the Home Office, Kent in particular faced logistical issues in terms of being able to provide all UASC with accommodation; as Kent Online reported in January 2016, “Vulnerable children from Kent are having to be cared for outside the county because of the influx of asylum seeker children, it has been claimed. Social services chiefs say they have had no option but to place local children away from the county as the problem of large numbers of asylum seeker children arriving in Kent goes on”.

    As a result, in the Immigration Act 2016 (sections 69 to 73) the Government made provision for the voluntary dispersal ofchildren to other local authorities.   In a written parliamentary answer given in October 2016, the Home Office Minister, James Brokenshire, said:

    We introduced the Voluntary National Transfer Scheme on 1 July to ensure a more equitable distribution of UASC across the country. Over 100 UASC have been transferred so far.

    We have consulted with every region in England, Scotland and Wales on their capacity. If we are to make the voluntary transfer scheme a success we need more local authorities to participate in the scheme and offer places for unaccompanied children from councils which are caring for disproportionately high numbers.

    [PQ 46928 14 October 2016]

    In a press release when the Voluntary National Transfer Scheme was launched, the Government stated that it had “increased the amount of funding that it will provide to local authorities caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, with annual support for each child aged under 16 rising from £34,675 to £41,610”.  A “Transfer Flow Chart” published by the Home Office shows the process of transferring a UASC under the Scheme – more information can be found in the Government’s Interim National Transfer Protocol for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children 2016-17 (version 0.8).

     

     
  • Shabana writes to Minister about child refugees

    Shabana has continued her longstanding work supporting vulnerable refugees by asking the government to give further help to unaccompanied child asylum seekers. A copy of her letter to the Government minister is below.

     

    Dear Edward Timpson MP

    I am writing to ask the Government to take further action in relation to unaccompanied child refugees.

    In 2015 88,000 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the EU; over 3,000 of these applications were made in the UK. These children are hugely vulnerable to the actions of smugglers and human traffickers and I am deeply concerned that their well being is not being sufficiently protected by the current legislative framework.

    I would like the Minister to consider the following two proposals to help protect unaccompanied child refugees.

    1) Appointing independent guardians for all unaccompanied migrant children. These guardians should be independent, have statutory powers and be able to work across all areas that affect an unaccompanied child’s life. I do not believe the current framework of social workers, Independent Reviewing Officers and representatives from the Refugee Council’s children panel are able to suffiently take on this role. The Government clearly accepts that independent guardians can be valuable as they already exist to support children who have been trafficked. This role should be extended to all unaccompanied children, particularly given the high prevalence of unaccompanied children going missing from care.

    2) Providing refugee children with family reunion rights. As it stands these children, who the Government accepts cannot return home for some time, will be entering an already stretched care system. Surely it would be far better for that child, and for the care system, to have their parents in the UK to support them. This would bring us into line with all other European Union (with the exception of Denmark) countries so would not markedly create a “pull” factor. The UK would simply be coming into line with other EU nations.

    I look forward to your response.

    Best wishes

    Shabana Mahmood MP