WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 20 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Demand for an independent inquiry after mistreatment of refugee children by Home Office staff

Demand for an independent inquiry after mistreatment of refugee children by Home Office staff

This article is from the Justice in a Time of Austerity series

Foster families and social workers are demanding an independent inquiry into the mistreatment and exploitation of refugee children by Home Office staff.

20 organisations, including the British Association of Social Workers, the Fostering Network and the Refugee Council, and Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT) published a letter in the Guardian today, stating that: ‘It is time for the government to carry out a wide-ranging independent inquiry into the treatment of unaccompanied children who come to our country seeking safety.’

The letter further stated that: ‘In our work with refugee children, we repeatedly see how they are being failed. Hundreds of unaccompanied children missing from hotels still have not been found. Children systematically wrongly age-assessed are treated as adults and placed in the same bedrooms as unrelated adult strangers. There is a culture of callous disregard for children’s basic right to dignity.’

The letter is in response to news last week that unaccompanied children seeking asylum were made to play a ‘game’ which involved them having to guess which child would next be placed into foster care. A report submitted by former Independent Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal, found that, ‘One team leader described the process by which they would disclose to the children who would be the next to leave for a placement.’ This process was deemed by inspectors to be incredibly insensitive and upsetting to the children.

It also follows information revealed by a re-inspection of four hotels where children seeking asylum were being housed, which found there was no guarantee in place to ensure that staff had been through the regular disclosure and barring services (DBS) clearances.

The Home Office has been accused of failing to deliver reforms and breaking pledges in relation to the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, prompting further scrutiny and demands for government intervention.

A spokesperson for the Home Office responded to the findings of the inspection, stating: ‘The safety and welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is our utmost priority. After the inspection’s findings, we launched a full investigation into the inappropriate behaviour of the support worker, who was removed from site immediately and did not return.’

Further action has been taken by the Home Office following the results of the inspection reports by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration in 2022 and 2023, which includes the closure of all seven hotels used to accommodate unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.