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The forgotten children

Categories: Articles:Asylum & Refugees | Published: 09/07/2016 | Views: 1080
Last month, the High Court made an important ruling which could transform the futures of unaccompanied children arriving in the UK. Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis explains what happened and why the ruling is so important.

Kabir’s mental health is in ruins.  Astoundingly, it wasn’t his experiences in Iran which doctors say caused his disorder. There, his dad was murdered and his brother was thrown in jail for opposing the repressive regime.

Nor was it the experiences he had when he fled his home alone on a long, perilous journey – the same sort of journey that UNICEF say lone child refugees face the threat of rape, forced labour, beatings or death.

The trauma that tipped Kabir over the edge happened to him right here, in Britain. The country where he’d hoped to find refuge.  
Like many refugee children who arrive in the UK by themselves, Kabir had no way of proving his age to the authorities.  Most countries that refugees come from don’t register births in the same way we do, although some will have documents that can help provide information about age.

Even if refugees do have documents with them, they may be not actually belong to them; they may have been bought from or given to them by a smuggler. This is a reality acknowledged by international refugee law; after all, it’s pretty hard to persuade a Government you’re escaping to give you a passport and an exit visa. Any documents lone child refugees do have are likely to have an adult’s date of birth because children would not be allowed to travel alone.

Kabir was 15. That’s what he tried to tell the people who found him in the back of the lorry he’d arrived in. He’d been there for days and wasn’t sure where he was, but he was hoping that he was safe and that these adults would protect him.

That’s not what happened. The authorities didn’t believe him. They thought he was a liar. They thought he looked older and shockingly, they were allowed to decide simply by looking at him that they were not going to refer him to an expert.   Read more here
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