The Home Office has released their response to a consultation about how unaccompanied asylum seeking children are treated in the UK. “Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children” follows a period of consultation since the original proposals were set out in March 2007. It includes proposals for specialist local authorities to be appointed to look after all these children, and consideration of how they may be returned to their countries of origin if their application fails.
In response to the publication of the government’s reform plans for the treatment of unaccompanied children seeking asylum, Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“We’re pleased the Home Office has recognised that it needs to improve the way they safeguard and protect these children. However we have serious concerns about some of the proposals outlined, and we oppose government plans to forcibly return children to their country of origin. The government should not try to force any child to return against their wishes where their safety and welfare cannot be guaranteed.
“Any way forward has to reflect the experiences of these children; some are trafficked, some have been politically active, some have been the victims of violence, including torture and sexual violence. These are not children who come here seeking a better life, with their families waiting for them in peaceful homes. Many of them are children from war zones.
“While we recognise age assessment procedures need to be improved, it is clear from the consultation responses and subsequent work that x-rays are not going to be the answer. We hope that further consultation will lead to this idea being dropped altogether.
“And as the work towards specialist authorities is developed we urge the government to ensure that the funding of local authorities reflects the real costs involved in providing the right level of care for these children.”