Child asylum seekers deserve better

Asylum claims by unaccompanied children must be dealt with through a transparent process which puts their best interests at its heart, the Law Society of England and Wales said today following a ruling that the delay in determining the asylum and trafficking claims of a minor, identified only as NHN, was unlawful.

“Two years is far, far too long for a vulnerable child to live in such uncertainty, waiting to find out if their asylum claim will be accepted or rejected,” said Law Society president Joe Egan.

“Worse, we know similar delays are affecting many children seeking sanctuary in the UK. Such prolonged uncertainty can have a hugely damaging effect on their mental health and undermine their ability to put their past behind them, so they can concentrate on their education and move on with their lives.”

During a claim, if a child turns 18 before the Home Office gives a decision their rights are diminished and they may lose access to crucial support and services.

Joe Egan added: “These young asylum applicants are first and foremost children. Many are victims of human trafficking or refugees who are traumatised – their best interests should be prioritised by the immigration and asylum system.

“We need a dedicated, consistent process for every claim for asylum by a minor and clear, effective ways to fast-track a claim if a young person is particularly vulnerable.

“Data on child asylum claims and appeals should be kept separately from adult claims so that the process is transparent and the Home Office accountable.”

The Law Society warned recently that grave problems in our immigration and asylum system undermine the rule of law, while also damaging the UK’s reputation for justice and fairness. 50% of appeals are upheld when reviewed by a judge, underlining the urgent need for action.

Joe Egan said: “There is incontrovertible evidence of failures across the immigration and asylum system: look at the experiences of the Windrush generation, of children seeking asylum left in limbo without explanation, at the proportion of Home Office decisions found to be wrong – and there are still three million Europeans waiting in the wings to settle their status post-Brexit.

“A knee-jerk, piecemeal approach to each crack as it emerges simply won’t work. We need an immigration and asylum process that makes lawful, timely, consistent decisions for everyone, to maintain trust in the justice system and uphold the rule of law.”

Notes to editors

Failures in immigration and asylum undermine the rule of law (press release, April 2018) 

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