At the Refugee Council, our work includes supporting refugee children who have been forced to flee war, violence or persecution. Many are separated from their families. Among them, every year, hundreds of refugee children are wrongly placed in the adult system due to incorrect assumptions about their age. They end up in adult hotels (and sometimes in detention), frightened, neglected, and risking exploitation and abuse. Correcting their ages can be a lengthy process, leaving them without the necessary support and education all young people require.
These young people have traveled from countries like Afghanistan, Sudan or Eritrea, where they have experienced extraordinary danger, and are dealing with immense trauma and grief. They’ve made desperate and traumatic journeys in the hope of reaching safety. Some of the teenagers we work with have bravely spoken about their experiences.
Through this year’s winter campaign, Believe, we are encouraging our supporters to fund our vital work, supporting and empowering refugee children to believe in their futures again. Our campaign features the story of 15-year-old Faiz*, who is supported by the Refugee Council to rebuild his life after making a terrifying journey from Afghanistan, escaping the militants who had already killed his brother.
Desperate to keep Faiz safe, his family sent him on a long and dangerous journey to Europe. After travelling on his own for several weeks, over land and sea, without food and proper shelter, Faiz finally reached the UK. Through his story we are raising awareness of the dangers refugee children experience when fleeing conflict and the challenges they encounter when reaching the UK. Download the booklet to read Faiz’s full story [PDF].
Reaching the UK, Faiz thought he had finally found safety, but unfortunately the authorities refuse to believe his true age, placing him in hotel accommodation alongside adult men. Through our Age Dispute Project, Faiz gets the support he needs to get his age corrected so he can be placed in appropriate accommodation with children his own age, where he feels much safer.
Many refugee children like Faiz have experienced extreme trauma when they arrive in the UK. Through My View Children’s Therapy, we offer separated children therapy sessions tailored to their cultural background and individual needs. Faiz also benefits from classes and social activities through our Youth Connect Project, a young people’s service focused on a child’s social development and self-belief.
Faiz told us how being supported by the Refugee Council helped him feel less isolated and how he is starting to believe in himself and his future again. He wants to help other people.
My hope – in the future I want to be a psychologist or a paramedic, I really do my best with these things. It helps me to help other people. My message to all young people is never give up, fight for your rights.
This is the difference you could make for many more children like Faiz. Our vital work is only possible because of supporters just like you. Young refugees—who have been through so much already—don’t always get the support and safety they need once they reach the UK. Like any other young person, they have so much to offer: they bring talent, hope and enthusiasm. Supporting us with a donation could give the joy of self-belief to a refugee child, this year and beyond. ■
*Faiz’s words are all real, but his story has been drawn from several real-life accounts from refugee children to safeguard their identities and families.