Rachel Humphris, researcher of the Becoming Adult team and Lecturer at Birmingham University, spoke to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire about unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) in their area on 7th September. Warwickshire is in the top 10 local authorities caring for UASC. This blog summarises the main points from the interview.
The BBC’s FOI request, released today, found that Warwickshire had 86 UASC children. But there has not been a large rise in numbers for Warwickshire. Warwickshire has very stable numbers for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. From FOI requests that we conducted at the University of Birmingham as part of the Becoming Adult project we found that Warwickshire has:
2012 / 13 – 87
2013 / 14 – 69
2014 / 15 – 74
Where unaccompanied asylum seeking children are located depends on the system we currently have in place for caring for them. These children are the responsibility of the local authority where they become visible. For Warwickshire, there may be more children than in other parts of the country because of its geographical location.
What is the impact that these children have on the local authority and the area?
The first important point is that there are not that many children when you look at the care system as a whole. So unaccompanied asylum seeking children make up just 8 per cent of children in care.
Second the figures released today might seem like a large a large increase but need to be placed within the figures over the last ten years. England’s asylum applications from UASCs have been decreasing.
For example in 2012 there were only 1125 asylum applications from unaccompanied asylum seeking children. The peak was in 2008 with nearly 4000 children which is very similar to the numbers that we might be seeing today.
So 4000 children is not a very big number and it certainly is not something that local authorities haven’t dealt with before.
Who are these children?
The data show that unaccompanied asylum seeking children tend to be in their teenage years. This may be because of the danger and the length of the journey.
For example children can experience very long migration trajectories travelling alone across many countries and borders and then having to wait in Calais for many months.
The top nationalities are also from the world’s top refugee producing countries, such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, and Syria. The situation is very complex and shifting rapidly.
What support do they need?
They are children first and foremost so they need all of the support that we might give to any child in our own family.
In addition they need help with their legal claim. This is very important and where there is a great need because of changes to legal aid it is more difficult to gain legal representation for young people particularly after they have reached 18 years old.
They also need orientation to understand English systems and ways of life. Some from Afghanistan have never been to school.
They may also need extra support to help them come to terms with the loss they have experienced moving from their family at such a young age and any trauma they experienced on their journey.
Young people are very resilient but sometimes the systems in England exacerbate their needs such as long delays for granting a permanent decision on their migration status.
This is something that needs to be addressed as these young people are in a limbo until they have a secure migration status and firm ground on which to build their futures.
More info on Becoming Adult mapping on UASC in British Local Authorities here: https://becomingadultproject.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/research-brief-series-01-2016.pdf