More young migrants face destitution, Children's Society says

Model posing as homeless girl in UK It is difficult to keep track of the numbers of young refugees who have become homeless.

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More must be done by government to help prevent young refugees and asylum seekers from falling into destitution, a children's charity has warned.

The Children's Society says it has seen a "noticeable rise" in the numbers of child migrants seeking its help.

It is behind a report suggesting more children are suffering homelessness and hunger as a result of restrictions on the benefits they can claim.

The UK Border Agency said it took children's welfare extremely seriously.

The "I Don't Feel Human" report documents young people's experiences.

The charity said it had been commissioned after it saw a "noticeable increase in the number of destitute young people accessing our services".

However, it admitted that it was difficult to keep track of how many children were affected in the UK.


"The government has indeed been practising a deliberate policy of destitution of this highly vulnerable group."

That was one of the findings of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, in a report on the treatment of asylum seekers five years ago.

The Children's Society study suggests the committee's warnings that restricting asylum claimants' access to benefits and accommodation would bring hardship and deprivation have not been heeded.

In one case, a Kurdish teenager from Iran had to sleep on buses after social services stopped his support; he tried to kill himself.

A 15-year-old girl from Cameroon was sexually abused and became pregnant after she was refused care when a local authority wrongly assessed her to be over 18.

The report provides no firm figures - but the anecdotal evidence itself gives pause for thought.

The report said: "While The Children's Society does not operate services for asylum-seeking and migrant children in every region of the UK, our work in London, the Midlands and the north has revealed widespread incidence of destitution and it is clear that this is not limited to these areas alone."

The Children's Society's policy director, Enver Solomon, said these children were being treated as if they had some kind of "second-class status" but the UK Border Agency and local authorities still had a duty to safeguard them.

"We estimate that thousands of children exist in the shadows of our communities, having their lives damaged by an approach that irresponsibly prioritises immigration control above the best interests of children," he said.

The charity said the government had to urgently review what support was provided to these vulnerable groups. It said the previous Labour government had introduced a policy of "forced destitution" by cutting benefits for asylum seekers in order to discourage others from applying.

The result, according to the report, is that increasing numbers of children whose asylum claims have been refused, and who have not been removed from the UK, are now sleeping rough and are vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation.


The report states that some of the young people it had seen had serious illnesses and mental health problems. Some self-harmed and tried to kill themselves, while others felt they had no option but to have sex in exchange for food or shelter.

The charity said that it had documented an increase in destitution among young migrants using its "New Londoners" service.

In said between 2009 and 2010, 25 out of the 174 young refugees (or 14%) who used the scheme would be regarded as destitute.

In the 2010-11 period, this figure rose to 17% with 48 out of 189 finding themselves destitute.

Between April and September last year, 46 out of 133 young people (34%) using the service were destitute.

The report defines destitution as "the lack of regular access to essential resources such as food, clothing, toiletries, medicine and a place to live".

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: "We take the welfare of children extremely seriously. Support is provided to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute until a decision on their application is made.

"But when we and the courts have decided that they do not need international protection, support is discontinued and we expect them to return home voluntarily.

"Support is given throughout the asylum process to families with children who are facing destitution."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    The debate is whether or not it's acceptable that young people are sleeping rough and are vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation and that they sometimes have to resort to becoming prostitutes in order to eat.

    I don't think it is acceptable and local authorities should have a duty by law to look after them.

    Whether or not they should be here in the first place is another debate.

  • Comment number 114.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    This is the real: -

    Everyone in this country is willing to submerge themselves in the enourmous diversity that this country has to offer. But when it comes down to this all I see is politics and racism. Bet people don't think that when they want a local indian or chinese from down the road though do they ? Why do you think we have such great selection in this country ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    75. 1l19

    So what is it called when you have kids but have no resources to bring them up other than to dump them onto someone else. Pretty irresponsible I'd say.

    76 R Riot
    And what have their parents being doing about this? Surely its the parents duty to look after their kids until they are in a position to be independent. Mine were with me and we are with ours. OK its not easy never said it was

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    103. Alan Walker
    Some people here are stating that by saying no to asylum seekers we are being fascist.
    If you turn away people who are fleeing for their lives and return them to torture and death then it doesnt make you Jesus does it?

    We (rightly) have legal obligations to accept legitimate asylum seekers.

    Economic migration is a completely different issue - these people should be deported.

  • Comment number 110.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    The selfish gene runs through roughly one third of the population. These people cannot stop what they say and how they behave. Scientific fact. Look to science if you want an explanation of politics

    The job of the other two thirds, the decent people, is to stop the selfish gene folk getting the upper hand. The Tory minority vote at last election was roughly one third. Does this say something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    More young migrants face destitution, Children's Society says.

    Bleeding heart liberals are a soft touch, a great deal of migrants know this and play on their ignorance and delusions of moral grandeur!

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    90.Proletarian Revolutionary "No human being the 21st centaury should have to rely on “charity” to survive."

    But unfortunately many of us do. Any one of us could suffer from cancer or a natural disaster and it is charities that are often there to help us. Through charities we can donate to those causes we care about the most. We make the choice, not the Government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    The real villains are those that broadcast to the world that Britain is an open door to a new and better life. It undermines countries of the world who need their talent at home building their country not ours. Can we have a charity report on our own exploited, zero educated, life stolen, family broken, forgotten and fed on the eternal ball and chain of perpetual benefits. No! I thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I have to wonder why the PARENTS of these Children send them here - in MOST cases.

    Yes - the UK has a generous Benefit-System - but as a Parent, I would much rather keep my Child with ME - than send them to a Foreign Country.

    I have a feeling that MANY these Children are sent here to get 'set-up' on the Benefit-System - THEN their Families will follow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I see Capitalism is in good shape again ths morning and getting the best out of people. What a happy and joyful world we've created for ourselves. Well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Some people here are stating that by saying no to asylum seekers we are being facist. Is it facist to want the best for my children, is it facist to want the jobless to leave the dole and start work, is it facist to want more spent on defending my country. If looking after Britain and the British people is facist, then I good sir must be a facist.

    No I am not a facist, just a man, a British man

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    It is not racism.These people should not be here so should be sent back to their own country, send a group accompanied by a Home office official. I seem to remember some time back youngsters being allowed into this country [unaccompanied] their parents had sent them here to be looked after by British taxes,nothing to do with the childs safety. All the time we accept responsibilty more will be sent

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Immigration has long now been in need of an overhaul. It is a sad fact that our country has been a stopping point for too long for anyone with a sad story and a gleam in their eye for the bounty of our country. We are an incredibly charitable nation of people, and will bend over backwards to help anyone who needs it..not who wants it, but NEEDS it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    What other country just allows people to pour through the doors? Of course they come here if they are sure that they will be fed and housed whilst having months to just disappear into the woodwork. I wish we had border controls like the Aussies. No valid passport? No valid visa? No means of support for your 6 month stay? On the next plane out again. No appeal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Perhaps we should make sure our own family are fed and watered before inviting the neighbours kids in for dinner?

    Immediate deportation should apply else we will become a dumping center for the worlds underprivalaged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Is anyone so naive that they think these unaccompanied minors have not arrived just so in order to evade deportation? The 21st C has reached the rest if the world! If we trade with or play sport against any nation, we should not accept a case of asylum seeking from them and any arrivals should be on the first plane back . Either a country is an acceptable friend or not.

  • Comment number 97.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    83 prole rev
    So why did parents have the kids in the first place if it wasn't me, me, me. I can't think of anything more selfish than bringing kids into this world that you have no chance whatsoever of bringing them up properly. But then there is always some dogooder condoning such actions and placing the blame with the responsible types who instead are left with the aftermath of irresponsibility


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