A coalition of charities including Asylum Aid, Refugee Council and Mind are calling on the health minister to protect vulnerable young asylum seekers after a small charity based in London reported 11 teenagers who arrived by themselves in the UK who had taken their own lives in the last five years.
The Da’aro Youth Project works with asylum seeking and refugee youth from the Horn of Africa. ‘All of these individuals arrived here as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and were either children in the care system or care leavers at the time of their deaths,’ reads the letter addressed to Nadine Dorries. ‘That young people once safe here in the UK would go on to take their own lives is devastating, and reflects the wider issues of young people’s struggle for mental healthcare and the pressures that are put on young people in the care and asylum systems.’
Some of the 11 teenagers took their own lives as they waited for decisions on their asylum claims and feared that they would be refused and forcibly returned to the countries they had fled from, and some had difficulties with post-traumatic stress and accessing mental health care.
The letter is signed by 46 charities and raises concern that coroners are not recording immigration status or nationality on death certificates and so the Office of National Statistics is unable to provide data on death by suicide among asylum-seekers. Without adequate statistics recorded, identifying trends is difficult. The letter states: ’The UK government has a responsibility to prevent suicide but it is unclear how it can do that when there is no record or follow up to the deaths of young people leaving care or in the asylum system.’
The groups argue that that the UK is suffering a ‘refugee protection crisis’ and calls for the government to ensure all local authorities are alert to the risk of suicide in this group; for the ONS to record and monitor immigration status in deaths by suicide; provide ring-fenced funding to local areas for specialist mental health support for refugee and asylum-seeking children and young people; and put in place an urgent and independent inquiry into deaths by suicide within the asylum system.
Benny Hunter, the coordinator of Da’aro Youth Project, stated told the Guardian that they were ‘deeply saddened by the tragic deaths by suicide of young people arriving in the UK, seeking asylum,’ and ‘without publicly available data, we cannot know how many other young people coming to the UK seeking sanctuary have gone on to take their own lives. Without change we fear more young people will lose hope.’