Unaccompanied migrant children in the UK: in their best interests?

Date: 12th June 2013
Category: Refugee , migrant and asylum-seeking children

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) haspublished a Report on the human rights of unaccompanied migrant children in the United Kingdom.

Unaccompanied migrant children are those who arrive in the UK separated from their parents and other relatives, and who are not being cared for by an adult with the legal or customary responsibility for doing so.

In 2012 around 1,200 such children sought asylum in the UK, and around 2,150 unaccompanied migrant children were being cared for by local authorities.

The Committee heard evidence of the range of issues that unaccompanied migrant children face during their time in the country. Children who had often faced traumatic journeys, many of whom are fleeing violence or who have been subject to abuse and exploitation, faced intensive interviews on arrival for which there were too rarely interpreting facilities available.

There was also evidence of children being placed in inappropriate accommodation facilities without suitably trained staff to provide support, which was a point of particular anxiety where children were victims of trafficking.

Concerns were also expressed about the educational services provided, with delays in enrolment due to documentation and too little development as language skills improved.

The Committee concludes that, despite the rights to protection and support owed to those children by the UK under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), immigration concerns are too often given priority.

The Report calls for a change in emphasis to put the best interests of such children at the heart of the often complex and stressful asylum and immigration processes affecting them.