Child asylum seekers in UK at risk of self-harm and suicide, charities warn | Refugees

Children who have arrived in UK alone to seek asylum are at risk of self-harm and suicide, 25 child rights organizations and migrants say, as figures show they are waiting longer than adults for a decision on their request.

The warning, in a letter to protection institutions, including the children’s commissioner and the chief social worker, said the risk was “exacerbated by the Home Ministry’s failure to rule on the claims. child asylum “.

He cites an independent inspection which found that children who received a ruling last year waited an average of 550 days, or 18 months, compared to 449 days for adults. The Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration said the Home Office had promised to prioritize vulnerable and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in January 2019, but no evidence was found of a priority case. The inspection also said the Interior Ministry had “failed to bring the volume of complaints it received” under control.

The signatories are calling for “urgent action,” warning that “some of the children we support are at risk of self-harm and suicide – a risk that is exacerbated by the Home Office’s failure to rule on the demands for ‘children’s asylum’.

At least 11 children who had come to the UK to seek refuge have been identified as having committed suicide, many in the past year and some of whom were awaiting a decision on their claims.

In the north-west of England, 80 children represented by the Greater Manchester Immigration Assistance Unit (GMIAU) have been waiting for more than six months for a decision on their asylum claim. Of these, nine Afghan children have waited an average of 417 days for a decision. Signatories include social workers, lawyers, and children’s and migrant rights charities such as GMIAU, the Children’s Society and the British Association of Social Workers.

The letter says the backlog in children’s asylum cases existed before Covid, but was made worse by the pandemic when Home Office interviews ceased in March 2020. Meanwhile, as the said one lawyer, the children he represents quietly developed serious mental disorders. health problems because they were left in limbo.

Sammy, 27, a refugee from Afghanistan, knows all too well the devastating effect of delays in children’s asylum claims. He arrived in the UK aged 15 after fleeing persecution, traveling alone through five countries before finally reaching the UK.

But once in the UK, he endured 13 court cases before finally being allowed to stay 11 years later, in 2020. He said the Home Office continued to insist he it would be safe for him to return to Afghanistan.

“I have a lot of depression and the Home Office system hasn’t helped,” Sammy said. “I feel like I’m 60 or 70 rather than 25 because of everything I’ve been through. The golden years of my age have already passed. All asylum seekers and refugees who came here alone as a child have mental health issues.

Sammy says education and volunteering have been his salvation. He is studying electrical engineering at university and volunteering with the Red Cross, helping newly arrived refugees adapt and settle in their unfamiliar surroundings. Most recently, he visited hotels where Afghan families who escaped Taliban takeover are staying.

Parviz, also from Afghanistan, arrived in the UK alone in 2015, aged 16. Six years later, the Home Office still has not made a decision on his initial asylum claim and did not even interview him until May 2021. The 22-year-old provided evidence of the significant impact of the delay on his mental health at the Home Office.

Denise McDowell, Executive Director of GMIAU, urged the government to make urgent decisions on asylum claims from unaccompanied youth, whom she described as “in limbo as their childhood slips away”.

“We cannot stand idly by while children risk suicide, self-harm and exploitation because adults do not properly manage the UK refugee system. How many more deaths will it take for this national scandal to obtain the urgent measures necessary to ensure their safety? ” she asked.

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