This is part 1 of our blog series about the journey taken and the barriers faced by children and young people who arrive alone in the UK to seek asylum. To help us continue our work with those young people, please support our Crowdfunder campaign.
The image exists in everyone’s mind – the rickety boats; the churning water; life-jacketed people; hopeful eyes searching for safety. Young people we support make this perilous journey across the channel on their own. But what is waiting for them once they reach land? Unaccompanied children are currently taken to holding units, waiting days for contact with social workers, without a bed or shower, before being moved around the country through the National Transfer Scheme. Instead of safety this is what children are greeted with in the UK at the end of their arduous journeys. This is the Hostile Environment in full effect.
Young people are too often caught up in the storm of the ‘immigration debate’, and forgotten about as children. Politics and chronic underfunding have created a situation in which local authorities can only afford to provide unaccompanied children with the bare minimum. Some, who have had their age disbelieved, are housed with adults and live fearful for their safety. Many cannot access education or social activities, and are left feeling isolated and alone.
Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) currently supports 200 children – a quarter of our active cases. This is the highest number of unaccompanied children we have ever supported, but we are with them all every step of the way. We commit to making sure they are able to claim asylum and secure their safety in the UK.
For many, their first experiences with a solicitor can be difficult – it can be hard to open up to someone you’ve just met, especially when you are in an unfamiliar place, far from your family, unable to speak English.
GMIAU’s solicitors, alongside our social worker, work hard to build trust with young people from day one, allowing them to relax and share their experiences. We help young people tell their stories, guide them through the asylum process, and explain their legal options.
But we can only achieve this with your help. As Brexit looms and the government shuts down safe and legal routes for people fleeing harm, it will become ever-harder for unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK. This winter, we ask you to share and support our Crowdfunder campaign. Your help really allows us to provide the life-changing support that unaccompanied young people in the UK need in their search for safety.