Today, we published our new report, “Wasted childhoods: the impact of COVID-19 asylum delays on children in the North West of England”. We showed that children have been waiting well over a year to get a decision on their asylum claim. They came to the UK looking for safety, often undergoing treacherous journeys and leaving loved ones behind. But instead of the security that every child deserves, they’ve found themselves stuck in a pandemic backlog. Here are some of their stories.
Miran* is from Iran. When he was 16, he had to leave the country at short notice because of discrimination from the police on account of his Kurdish ethnicity. His family paid an agent to help him travel across Europe in lorries. Miran was very scared during the journey, especially about leaving his family. When he arrived in the UK, the police found him wandering the streets and took him to social services. He claimed asylum in November 2019. Miran settled well living with his foster carer and started attending college. He was due to have his asylum interview the week that lockdown started in March 2020. It was cancelled and still hasn’t been re-arranged. Miran will turn 18 this summer. His foster carer and social worker are concerned about his mental wellbeing – he is low in mood and distressed about his future. His social worker says he has ‘started to experience considerable anxiety’.
Nabil* is from a village in North East Syria. He fled after he was forcibly recruited by a Kurdish militia group. He travelled in lorries to the UK (at one point having to hide in a wooden box). He was 16 when he arrived in the UK at the end of 2019. He lives in a children’s home in Manchester, has enrolled at college and likes going to the gym when it is allowed. He misses his family terribly but is too afraid to contact them in case it gets them into trouble. His solicitor submitted his Statement of Evidence Form in March 2020. He is still waiting for a decision on his asylum claim and has not been interviewed.
Dillan* is an Iranian Kurd from a small village in the Kurdish region of Iran. He left Iran after becoming unintentionally involved in Kurdish activism. He left Iran illegally (the Iranian government requires all citizens to have exit permits for foreign travel) and travelled to the UK by foot and in lorries. He claimed asylum in February 2020 when he was 16 years old. He is still awaiting a decision. His social worker has written to the Home Office to express concerns over his mental health which has declined significantly. This has also been raised with the Home Office as a safeguarding issue because he has expressed desires to harm himself.
Please read our new report, here, and share it widely.
*Names have been changed