In their scathing report on the treatment of asylum seekers, including enforced destitution, MPs and peers on the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, condemn the British state’s treatment of asylum seeking children.
The report’s conclusions and recommendations on the ‘treatment of children’ state:
‘26. As we have made clear in our previous Reports, we consider the Government’s concerns in relation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to be unfounded.
‘Of the 192 signatories to the CRC, only three have entered declarations relating to the treatment of non-nationals and only the UK has entered a general reservation to the application of the Convention to children who are subject to immigration control.
‘We do not accept that the CRC undermines effective immigration controls.
‘Our principal concern is that the practical impact of the reservation goes far beyond the determination of immigration status, and leaves children seeking asylum with a lower level of protection in relation to a range of rights which are unrelated to their immigration status.
‘The evidence we have received testifies to the unequal protection of the rights of asylum seeking children under domestic law and practice (Paragraph 180) (News Line emphasis)
‘27. We reiterate our previous recommendation that the Government’s reservation to the CRC should be withdrawn.
‘It is not needed to protect the public interest and undermines the international reputation of the country.
‘Even if, as the Minister states (which we do not accept), the removal of the Reservation would be nothing more than a “gesture”, we consider that this is important in expressing the value given to protecting the rights of separated asylum seeking children (Paragraph 181)
‘28. We also recommend that the Government consider how section 11 of the Children Act could be extended to include authorities providing support for asylum seekers, the Immigration Service and the IRCs (Paragraph 182)
‘29. We are concerned about the detrimental consequences of providing inadequate and inappropriate support and accommodation to separated asylum seeking children. (News Line emphasis)
‘These children, who come to the UK, often traumatised, from some of the most troubled regions of the world, are particularly vulnerable.
All local authorities should follow the guidance set out in LAC13 (2003) and provide separated children with support under section 20 of the Children Act.
‘Children should not be “de-accommodated” before they turn 18 (Paragraph 190)
‘30. We recognise that the difficulties local authorities face in providing an appropriate package of accommodation and support to separated asylum seeking children are compounded by the lack of additional resources available to social service departments, and by a broader political and policy context which pushes the needs of separated children down the already long list of priorities facing local authorities in providing children’s services.
‘Local authorities must be provided with sufficient funds to deliver an appropriate package of support and care, including leaving care costs (Paragraph 191)
‘31. We are concerned that there is currently no statutory oversight for ensuring that separated children are able to access the services and support to which they are entitled, and for ensuring that the wide range of bodies in contact with a child act in his or her best interests.
‘This is despite the requirement of Article 19 of the EU Reception Directive, that separated children should be provided with a guardian.
‘We recommend that a formal system of guardianship should be established for separated children subject to immigration control, including separated asylum seeking children.
‘The guardian would have a statutory role and would be appointed by a statutory body to safeguard the best interests of the child and provide a link between all those providing services and support.
‘The guardian should be expected to intervene if public bodies act in contravention of their legal duties towards a child (Paragraph 193)
‘32. We recommend that the Government’s proposals to reform the arrangements for supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children should be carefully scrutinised against the benchmark of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that this group are not excluded from the care, consideration and protection to which all children and young people are entitled (Paragraph 196)
‘33. We are concerned by the lack of recognition given by the Government to the risks of having children whose age is disputed in the adult system.
‘We are not convinced that the Home Office is ensuring that the “benefit of the doubt” is given to separated asylum seeking children or that local authorities receive appropriate training and support to enable them to undertake an integrated assessment process.
‘We are also concerned that age disputed children continue to be detained as adults despite Government policy which says that this should not happen; and legal actions, in which the Home Office has conceded that this approach is not appropriate. (Paragraph 203)
‘34. We recommend that where an asylum seeker’s age is disputed even where the benefit of the doubt has been given, he or she should be provided with accommodation by the appropriate social service department in order for an integrated age assessment to be undertaken, considering all relevant factors.
‘X-rays and other medical assessment methods should not be relied upon, given the margin of error.
‘The process for dealing with age disputes should be reviewed, particularly in light of the evidence and recommendations arising from the research currently being undertaken by ILPA and due to be published shortly, with a view to ensuring that no age disputed asylum seeker is detained or removed unless and until an integrated age assessment has been undertaken. (Paragraph 204).’