13 Dec 2005

THE Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Nigel Williams, today expressed his concern at the way asylum-seeking children and young people are treated.

The Commissioner was speaking after all four of the UK children’s commissioners met Lyn Homer, Head of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate in the Home Office.

“Today all four UK commissioners issued a joint statement (attached) outlining our concerns,” he said. “Children and young people have told us of their worries about how asylum-seeking children, their parents, their carers and their friends are affected by the process.

“As commissioners we want the Government to make sure that asylum-seeking children and young people are treated as children by all those involved at every stage of the asylum process, from arrival in the UK through to, if necessary removal to their country of origin.”

Mr Williams said children and young people have special needs within the asylum process.

“I am especially concerned about the plight of young people who have been in the UK for many years, and for whom this has become home. It is very difficult for them, their families and their friends they have made here when the Government seek to remove them.

“In the meeting with the Home Office I gave the example of the Somasundram family, who are very much part of the local community having lived in Belfast since 2001 following their escape from the civil war in Sri Lanka and the murder of one of their sons. I have also written to the immigration Minister about this, appealing for this family to be allowed to stay on compassionate grounds.”

Notes for Editors

Please see below the Joint Statement on asylum-seeking children and young people in the UK: statement from the Children’s Commissioners for the UK

December 2005

Joint Statement from the UK Children’s Commissioners

The four UK Children’s Commissioners have expressed their profound concern at the way in which asylum-seeking children and young people are treated.

The four Children’s Commissioners met with the Home Office on 12th December to express profound concern at the way in which asylum-seeking children and young people are treated in the United Kingdom.

The issues have been raised by children and young people in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – both by those caught up in the process themselves and by others affected, including the friends and teachers of the children concerned.

The Commissioners call on the Government to ensure that asylum-seeking children and young people are treated as children by all those involved at every stage of the asylum process, from arrival in the UK through to removal to their country of origin, and their special needs and rights recognised. They want to express their disappointment that no-one seems to be listening to what the children themselves have to say or to be considering the impact that their experiences before and since coming to this country may have had on them. The Commissioners in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will also be making representations to their own Parliaments and Assemblies about the effects of current policy on children and young people in their area.

The following specific concerns were raised at the meeting:

• The adequacy and fairness of the asylum determination process, particularly in respect of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children; these include the need for legal assistance and more effective procedures for reliably determining age which respect the rights of the young people concerned.

• The detention of both asylum-seeking children in families, and children whose age is disputed, for the purposes of immigration control.

• The way in which children and their families are being removed through unannounced raids and transferred to removal centres for the purposes of return.

• The withdrawal of welfare from asylum-seeking families with children, following a final negative asylum decision and the exhaustion of appeals. This can include the power to separate asylum-seeking children from their families in cases where the family can no longer provide for their children’s needs as a result of their welfare being withdrawn.

• The lack of provision for young people who reach 18, having been formerly looked after as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

• The return of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to countries of origin, without a comprehensive assessment of whether return is in the best interest of the child as required by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

• The particular difficulties experienced by children being returned who have been in the UK for many years and regard it as their home and who may have no memory of their family’s country of origin.

The Home Office agreed to work with the Commissioners to take account of their concerns and to see how the views of asylum-seeking children and young people could be identified and articulated. The Commissioners will continue to work with children and young people themselves, with a number of key stakeholders and with the Government to see how these issues can be addressed. The commissioners call on Government to honour its commitment to Every Child Matters for all children and young people and to review its procedures and practices in light of the comments above.

Al Aynsley-Green - Children’s Commissioner for England 
Nigel Williams - Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People 
Kathleen Marshall - Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People 
Peter Clarke - Children’s Commissioner for Wales

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For further information from:

The Children’s Commissioner for England, please contact Anna Martin on 0207 273 4912

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, please contact Jonathan Traynor on 028 9031 6389

Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, please contact Gordon Brown on 0131 558 3733 or 07917815777.

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, please contact Sara Reid on 01792 765600 (main switchboard) and 07816 759 33

ENDS

 

For further information In Northern Ireland please contact: 
Jonathan Traynor, Media & Public Affairs Officer 
Tel: 028 9031 1616 
Fax: 028 9031 4545 
Mob/out of hours: 07917 543 953 
Email: jonathan@niccy.org