19 Sep 2008

Removal of block to protecting vulnerable children ‘long overdue but much welcomed’’

GOVERNMENT plans to protect asylum-seeking children are an important step in guarding the rights of every child in the United Kingdom, according to all four of the country’s children’s commissioners. 

The commissioners - Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Kathleen Marshall, Keith Towler and Patricia Lewsley – today jointly welcomed reports of the intended removal of what they described as a Government block to protection of children.

The removal will end its two longstanding ‘reservations’ on the treatment of non-citizen children and children detained in youth justice establishments

Speaking on behalf of the four commissioners, Sir Al Aynsley-Green said they had been unified in their opposition to Government’s previous failure to afford total protection for children seeking asylum and refuge in the UK.

“This move, while long overdue, is one we all warmly welcome,” he said. “We have been concerned that this particularly vulnerable group of children have been exposed to a draconian system for too long.
“Often they have fled terrible situations in their home country, seeking sanctuary and protection here, only to find themselves detained and treated in such a way that they felt as if they were criminals.

“Should the Government confirm its intention, this is a momentous occasion for the promotion and protection of the rights of all children across the UK.

“In practice, withdrawing the reservations should result in improved rights for groups of children who require special protection, including asylum-seeking children, trafficked children and those in the youth justice system.

“This will only be the case however if it is accompanied by a renewed and dedicated commitment from Government to give full effect to the Convention’s principles of non-discrimination and the promotion of the best interests of the child, backed by adequate resources.

“We look forward to hearing from the Government on this matter when it appears before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva next week.”

Notes to Editors:

  • The Government block to full protection of the rights of asylum-seeking and refugee children was in the form of a ‘reservation’ – or opt-out - to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • The UK is a signatory to the Convention, which says that the best interests of the child come first.