Main Legislative Framework and Guidance
The Children Act 1989 places a responsibility upon Local Authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people living in their area. When children in need are identified, an assessment of their needs should be undertaken.
A major factor for unaccompanied asylum seeking children is that the burden of proof is placed upon the applicant to evidence his or her asylum claim.
The Hillingdon Judgement and Local Authority Circular (2003) 13
All UASC should, on arrival, be supported under S20 of the Children Act 1989, until an assessment of needs has been completed.
- Based on assessed need, most UASC including 16 and 17 year olds who require accommodation should be provided with S20 support.
- The majority of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children will be entitled to leaving care services.
- S17 can be used to support Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children in exceptional circumstances where an assessment of needs identified that to become looked after would not be in the UASC’s best interests – for example if the young person strongly expresses aversion to becoming looked after.
Research by the refugee Council
Recent research by the refugee council shows that 88% of unaccompanied children applicants were male and 90% of unaccompanied children were aged 14-17. This research also highlighted that unaccompanied children who have reached the age of 18 are much more likely to have their asylum claim refused. This involves children who have reached the age of 18 having a refusal rate of 70% in 2013.
The refugee council research also highlights that a new category, UASC leave, was introduced in 2013 and is now used in cases where the only reason for giving leave is that the applicant is a child who cannot be returned, and this means there are now far fewer grants of discretionary leave than in the past’.
In terms of finding the families of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children the Kent’s Law clinic publication (2014) shows that even when an accompanied child claims asylum in the UK the Home Office has a duty to endeavour to trace the child’s family.
All Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children should be supported by the appropriate Local Authority. The National Asylum Support Service and Coram Children’s legal centre also provide some useful services for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.