Today we’ve published a new report, “Wasted childhoods: the impact of COVID-19 asylum delays on children in the North West of England”. You can download it here. Don’t have time to read the full report? Scroll down for our key findings and recommendations. It’s also been reported in the Guardian – read the article here.

Miran* is from Iran. He claimed asylum in the UK in November 2019, and was due to have his asylum interview the week that lockdown started in March 2020. But it was cancelled and it still hasn’t been re-arranged. Miran will turn 18 this summer and he is still waiting in limbo due to the pandemic backlog. He is low in mood and distressed about his future. His social worker says he has ‘started to experience considerable anxiety’. To read Miran’s full story along with two others, Nabil’s and Dillan’s, click here.

Miran’s story is not unique. Our report found that it is mirrored in the experiences of many children in the North West. Children are emotionally and physically falling apart as a result of asylum delays.

  • At the time of writing, we were supporting 75 children who were still waiting for a decision on their asylum claim. The average time they had waited was 410 days and the longest wait was 564 days.
  • 27 children turned 18 while waiting. This means that, while their application should still be considered as that of a child, they are no longer entitled to legal aid to cover legal representation in their asylum interview.
  • Social workers detailed the mental and physical impact of the wait. They wrote to the Home Office to tell them about anxiety; insomnia; self-harm; depression; hair loss and skin irritation; deterioration in relationships with friends and with support staff; and reduced engagement with education and other services.

Our recommendations are:

  • For the Home Office to make decisions on all children’s asylum claims without interviews where it would not cause them harm to do so
  • For the Home Office to expedite the rollout of asylum interviews for children
  • If the above are not possible, to immediately grant leave to remain for children waiting in the pandemic backlog.

A statement from GMIAU:

Our research shows children in the North West are emotionally and physically falling apart because the asylum system has ground to a halt. Let’s be clear – right now there are children in bedrooms pushed towards self-harm, suffering persistent insomnia, losing their hair, unable to concentrate and giving up on the future. It’s happening because our children are stuck, waiting while adults struggle to work out how to decide their asylum claims during a pandemic. This has to change. The good news is the solutions are simple and have the support of all involved. We now need urgent action to get children’s asylum claims moving again. If the Home Office is unable to do this, the only sensible option is to grant asylum now to all these children who have been waiting in limbo. It is inhumane to expect them to wait any longer.

You can download the report here and read the Guardian article here.

*name changed