Unaccompanied children entering UK failed by system, says report

Unaccompanied children entering UK failed by system, says report

An EU-funded report centred around the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum in the UK found the system “complex”, and suggests further multi-agency collaboration to prevent cases falling through the child safeguarding net.

Connect Project’s data was gathered over a 12 month period, mapping practice and services across four countries in the EU (the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and the UK). The project focused on how these countries’ services interacted and how that would affect unaccompanied migrant children.

Although the number of unaccompanied migrant children applying for asylum in the UK has fallen significantly (with 6,200 applying for asylum in 2002 compared to only 1,288 in the year ending March 2014), the report suggests that this has resulted in the closure of local authority centres that previously provided skilled workers experienced in dealing with the needs of unaccompanied migrant children.

The project concentrated on three key areas, noting the response and methods by relevant authorities and how they would affect the case of an unaccompanied migrant child:

  • identifying and responding to situations of extra-vulnerability, including trafficking or trauma
  • by preventing and responding to disappearances of children from care, and
  • properly informing relevant safeguarding services

Noting an important trend, the report states that many unaccompanied migrant children fail to apply for asylum at the port of entry, instead waiting until a later date to apply. This impedes the ability of border control officials or social workers located at ports to “identify and protect” these children.

Human trafficking

Of the 2,255 potential victims of human trafficking who were identified in the UK in 2012, 24% were children. The UK Home Office and NGOs acknowledge that these figures are a “gross underestimate, and only represent a snapshot of a much wider trade”.

Outside of those migrant children applying for asylum or arriving through illegal routes, a number of children arrive with parents or go to live with families already settled in the UK.

Family Court lawyers working in the UK report that a “very large number of foreign national children” become unaccompanied migrant children after child protection proceedings which deems their parents or families “unfit”, leaving them open and vulnerable.

The research report states that there had been a “number of developments” which suggest that multi-agency working would have a positive effect on the lives of immigrant unaccompanied children. It suggests further multi-agency cooperation between departments and countries, including sharing new statutory regulations, which may help the plight of immigrant unaccompanied children.