New report examines the best interests of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK through their own experiences
Brighton University report says asylum process is contrary to the best interests of unaccompanied children
28 September 2015
The University of Brighton's Centre for Research on Management and Employment (CROME) has released a report looking at the experiences of unaccompanied child asylum seekers.
The report was authored by CROME Research Fellow Jo Wilding and Professor Marie-Bénédicte Dembour and published under the MinAs project.
You can read the 44-page report here.
The report examines the best interests of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK through their own experiences. In researching the report, the authors interviewed eleven unaccompanied children or former unaccompanied children and seventeen experts.
The report's executive summary lists the following key points on the asylum process:
• Both the children and experts interviewed regard the asylum process as hostile, interrogatory and lacking in adequate procedural safeguards for the child. The asylum process is contrary to the children's best interests.
• In contrast to the safeguard for children in criminal justice processes, the appropriate adult safeguard is ineffective in the asylum process and does not prevent confusing or repetitive questioning by interviewers.
• The asylum process fails to gather information relevant to determining children's best interests.
• Despite it being the mechanism best suited to safeguarding many children's best interests, the category of humanitarian protection is virtually never considered for unaccompanied children, let alone granted. This is to the detriment of children, especially those aged or nearing age 17.5.
• Where judges complied with guidance for children's cases, appeal hearings were a benign or positive experience for young people, but where judges failed to implement guidance, children were denied the right to effective participation in the proceedings.
• There is no alternative to the asylum process for unaccompanied children seeking some form of protection in the UK.
• Significant problems remain with age assessment, including assessments which do not appear to comply with the legal requirements and a lack of clarity about the number of assessments and disputes arising.
According to the report, just seven of the 150 local authorities in England look after nearly half of all unaccompanied asylum seeking children (43%). The authors say this appears detrimental, with social workers having higher caseloads and thus less time for any one child in their charge.
The report recommends that the asylum process be amended to respect the best interests of children throughout, including the method of information gathering and the type of information gathered.
It also calls for legal aid to be reinstated for all children's cases, whether asylum or not, and says the legal aid contract should be amended to permit/better incentivise good quality representation.
Jo Wilding told the LocalGov website: "Unaccompanied migrant children are entitled to protection under domestic legislation and international agreements, the most universally accepted of which is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child."
"We hope this report will improve understanding about the best interests of children and provide a solid basis for proper implementation of the principle in practice."