BlogChildrenGMIAU Caseworker, Isobel

This is part 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.

As our Crowdfunder nears its close, with 89 wonderful supporters at the time of writing, our blog series has taken us through the journey a young person we support might take as they search for safety and security in the UK. With GMIAU walking alongside all the way, that journey involves the initial arrival, making friends in the UK, working with a social worker, and possibly undergoing an age assessment. Now we arrive at the moment of getting an asylum decision. To find out more, we spoke to our caseworker Isobel.

Isobel told us that the process we’ve described and the wait for an asylum decision takes at least six months. It’s not unusual for a child to be waiting a year. This year, due to Covid delays, many have been waiting even longer. And that’s not taking into account the time taken getting to the UK – this young person from our All4One group explained the long process of travelling through Libya, France and Italy before arriving here. Then there’s the work of the application: working with a solicitor, possibly gathering evidence. “It’s what people’s lives are geared up to for a long period of time.”

So how does it feel?

For both adults and children, Isobel says, “an asylum decision is a bit of a strange time… it can be a bit of a mixed bag.” Of course, it’s fantastic to get a positive asylum decision, and it’s often a jubilant moment. But the reality of life as a refugee can be overwhelming.

“Psychologically, emotionally, physically, everything has been put into this asylum decision. That has a high toll on people’s wellbeing. Then you’re left with a card and a piece of paper that says you’re a refugee, and you’re safe for five years. You’re left with the reality that you’re a refugee, you’re not with your family, you might not speak the language, you’ve got a massive hurdle to climb to start a job or university education.”

What if a child’s asylum application is rejected?

If a child is rejected who is under seventeen and a half years old, they can receive leave to remain for either two and a half years or until they reach seventeen and a half, provided that the Home Office accept that there are no adequate reception arrangements for them in their home country. They’ll also have the right to appeal the decision. For a child represented by GMIAU, Isobel explained, a rejected claim will always be taken to an appeal – we’ll stand with them all the way.

What does a positive decision mean?

We asked Isobel what would change for a child seeking asylum at the moment they become a refugee. She told us that they’ll be able go to university if they want to, and work when they’re old enough. (Children waiting for an asylum decision will be in education, but unable to progress to university). But “the security is the big thing,” she said. Their situation won’t change a huge amount – a child will stay in the same accommodation with the same level of support from social services. But the value of a sense of security for a child’s wellbeing is immeasurable. Here are some reflections from two young people we’ve supported.

“I feel like I’ve finally been able to rest and I feel safe here. I have got hope for the future again.”

“I will never forget your help. Thank you everyone. Now I can live in England forever and I hope to get a good job here. I am happy as I have met a lot of people from a lot of countries and I have met a lot of friends in England.”

Our Crowdfunder campaign will close at 11:55pm on Wednesday – the 23rd of December. If you’d like to get involved and help us continue to offer support to children through every stage of the asylum process, check out our page, donate if you can, and share it widely!