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Probe launched into child asylum seekers in UK

12 March 20240 comments

A scandal has erupted in the UK over the treatment and welfare of children seeking asylum.

Charities and child advocates have called for full scale inquiry into the treatment of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK.

The call came after a report revealed basic checks to keep children safe in asylum hotels were not being carried out.

In a letter to the government, the groups used the example of the “appalling revelation” that some children were asked to play a game to guess who would be in foster care next.

In response, the UK’s Home Office said the welfare of the children was an “utmost priority”.

It said a full investigation has been launched into the “inappropriate behaviour” of the worker behind the “game”, who was removed from his post immediately after the incident came to light.

The report said one team leader would disclose to the children who would be the next to leave for a placement by “making a game of it”. They would ask them to guess who would be next, before revealing their name.

It said inspectors considered the practice “insensitive in the extreme and undoubtedly upsetting to the children”, saying that while there was no evidence to suggest it was adopted more widely it had not been challenged internally.

The Home Office last week belatedly published the report, two months fater it was due come out.

The open letter is signed by 18 organisations, including the Refugee Council and the British Association of Social Workers, and calls for a wide-ranging independent inquiry into the treatment of people aged 17 and younger who are seeking asylum.

At one point seven hotels were contracted by the Home Office to provide accommodation for the children on a temporary basis while placements with local authorities were found.

The Home Office says it no longer uses the hotels, but the charities and campaigners describe the inspector’s report findings as “disturbing… distressing and dystopian”.

Hundreds of unaccompanied children missing from hotels still have not been found, the letter says, and wrongly age-assessed children had been sharing bedrooms with adult strangers.

“In our work with refugee children, we repeatedly see how they are being failed… There is a culture of callous disregard for children’s basic right to dignity,” the letter said.

“We urgently need to see a fundamental change towards an asylum system that is fair, humane and protects those who are some of the most vulnerable children in the country.”

“Inspectors found that two years on from when the Home Office first moved children into hotels, it was still grappling with the challenges of managing an operation that was only ever envisaged to provide a short-term solution,” the letter.

The report was based on inspections of two hotels in Kent in September 2023.

Child asylum seekers: Call for inquiry after ‘disturbing’ report – BBC News