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.
Every child deserves to play safely with their friends. Growing up in the UK as a young person, we had a choice of many places to wage our childhood battles. From sports in the park or schoolyard, to hide and seek in gardens and streets! Occasionally, we might have come home with a broken arm or a sprained ankle, but as they say, “kids will be kids”.
For many young migrants in the UK, the same locations in their home country can be very real battlegrounds, littered with real dangers. A young person cannot play in the rubble of a school, churned up park, or troop occupied street. Some are fortunate and escape, longing only to feel safe and young. Upon arrival in the UK, the hostile environment creates new battles, although Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU) stands strong by their side.
“I left my country because it is not safe for me to live there. My uncle was killed, I had been detained, and my father has been detained as well. I do not know if my father is still alive.”
Often, a young person’s first point of contact with GMIAU is a referral to one of our solicitors to assist with their legal case. We support young migrants in their claim to asylum and other key services, such as education. An age dispute can disrupt access to education, yet again robbing young people of a place to play, learn and grow: a place to be young.
“I missed out on school and education. I would have been studying for GCSE’s if they had not have believed my age sooner.”
Whilst securing their legal status is a vital aim, we also strive to provide a space for young people to be young. 11 years ago, we established the All4One group: a support network for those aged 13-21 seeking asylum on their own in Greater Manchester. The All4One group is a diverse space that accommodates for many needs. For some, it is a place to socialise with other young people in their own language, often for the first time in months. For others, it is a place to explore talents, from finger painting to cooking. More recently, some members have taken it upon themselves to use it as a platform for empowerment through the publication of the #SixThings guide for local authority staff. Ultimately, it is a safe place to be a young person in Greater Manchester.
“Meeting new friends has helped me. It is important to do these things as it makes you feel relaxed when you meet people from your country.”
For the 25+ members, the meetings are a release from the anxieties of their ongoing legal cases and a chance to integrate with the wider community of young people in Greater Manchester. A donation of £100 funds an entire All4One session; a place where lifelong memories are given to those who have had so much taken away.
“She helped me get a place at college, and she got me to go to the All4One group. We meet up every couple of weeks. I’ve got loads of friends now.”