Social work system abandons teenage asylum seekers


Leading social work, mental health and legal professionals are uniting for a conference that could help prevent teenage asylum seekers from being returned to conflict-ridden countries when they turn 18.

Young asylum seekers receiving refuge in the UK are often abruptly deported when they turn 18 and returned to conflict, post-conflict or hostile environments.

The conference, Facing the Abyss: Exploring the challenges for separated children seeking asylum as they turn 18, has been organised by the Departments of Social Work and Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London.

This conference seeks to examine the experiences of separated children seeking asylum and the challenges faced by professionals supporting them, as they make the transition to adulthood in circumstances of extraordinary uncertainty.

Every year around 2000 children come into the UK alone seeking asylum from countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. The majority of these young people are granted Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR), which allows them to stay in the UK until they are 17.5 years old. Before their DLR expires they must apply to extend their leave.

Anna Gupta, Head of the Department of Social Work, said: “Increasing numbers of young people are receiving quick, negative decisions on their applications for extension of leave, and when they turn 18, they become liable for detention and forcible removal from the UK.  These young people have often spent several years in the UK at a formative age, and remain vulnerable once they turn 18.”

To date there has been limited information about what happens to these young people once they turn 18. One recent study by the Refugee Support Network has shown that these young people often find themselves suddenly uprooted from carers, friends, support networks and education and returned to a conflict, post-conflict or hostile environment, without family connections or support structures.

The conference will include the screening of Media Arts lecturer Sue Clayton’s award-winning film Hamedullah: The Road Home and presentations from separated young people seeking asylum.

The UK and other Governments in Europe have been considering policies for lowering the age and returning some separated children prior to them turning 18. Drawing on the perspectives of young people themselves, as well as mental health, legal and social work professionals, the conference will explore the issues within a human rights and social justice framework.

In addition the conference aims to develop a network in order to consider the possibilities of collating information and tracking the outcomes for separated young people seeking asylum.

Facing the Abyss: Exploring the challenges for separated children seeking asylum as they turn 18

Wednesday 19 September, 9.30am – 4.30pm

Tavistock Centre, 120 Belsize Square, London NW3 5BA

Posted on Tuesday 18th September 2012