People charged with making life-changing decisions about unaccompanied children seeking asylum should be supported to ensure that their best interests are at heart. This call is set out in a new report, Put Yourself in Our Shoes, published today.
The report, by the Law Centres Network’s Principles to Practice Project, involved 15 Law Centres and partners, along with considerable voluntary support from City law firm Allen & Overy. It is based on data collected throughout 2014 from a representative sample of 60 cases of unaccompanied children.
Last year, some 1,945 children applied for asylum in the UK while on their own. That number is expected to rise in light of government’s recent commitment to take in 20,000 refugees by 2020. The UK government is committed to considering children’s best interest in all decisions made about them.
However, our report shows how, throughout the children’s asylum and care process, this is not reflected in practice – and it stands to affect their life chances. Varying levels of understanding of child rights along the process see things done to and for the children seeking asylum without any room for their input. This means that, in effect, the asylum process merely pays lip service to children’s best interests.
The report identifies child-centred principles from international practice, and highlights areas of good practice in the UK asylum system. It also makes recommendations on improving the asylum process, as well as improving training and skills for those working with children, to ensure that their best interests are well and truly paramount.
The report was authored by Dr Kathryn Cronin, barrister and joint head of Garden Court Chambers; Baljeet Sandhu, solicitor and manager of the Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU) at Islington Law Centre; and Professor Ravi Kohli, child welfare expert from the University of Bedfordshire.
“People seeking asylum are fleeing conflict and persecution, and none are more vulnerable than children separated from their families. We hope that government will share our concern at the findings and follow our practical recommendations to truly uphold these children’s best interests.”
Click here to download the report's executive summary [PDF], or below for the full report.
For enquiries about the report and our Principles to Practice project, please email us or ring 020 3637 1330.