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Law Centres Network: Asylum process pays lip service to children’s best interests

The government's commitment to children's welfare is not reflected in practice according to report

10 November 2015

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Law Centres Network (LCN) has launched a new report urging the government to improve the asylum process to ensure children's best interests are protected.

'Put Yourself in Our Shoes' is based on data collected from 60 cases of unaccompanied children who had applied for asylum throughout 2014.

The report, by the Law Centres Network's Principles to Practice Project, involved 15 law centres and partners, along with considerable voluntary support from City firm Allen & Overy. It makes recommendations on improving the asylum process, as well as improving training and skills for those working with children.

Last year, some 1,945 children applied for asylum in the UK while on their own, an increase of more than 50 per cent from the year before (1,265). In the first six months of 2015, 1,016 applications have been made and in light of the government's recent commitment to take in 20,000 refugees by 2020, the annual figure is expected to rise further.

The report shows how, throughout the children's asylum and care process, that while the UK government may be committed to putting children's best interests at the heart of the asylum system, this is not reflected in practice.

Varying levels of understanding of child rights see things done to and for the children seeking asylum without any room for their input, the report suggests. This means that, in effect, the asylum process merely pays lip service to children's best interests.

Julie Bishop, director of the Law Centres Network, commented: 'People seeking asylum are fleeing conflict and persecution, and none are more vulnerable than children separated from their families. We hope that government will share our concern at the findings and follow our practical recommendations to truly uphold these children's best interests.'

The report was authored by Dr Kathryn Cronin, joint head of Garden Court Chambers; Baljeet Sandhu, a solicitor and manager of the Migrant and Refugee Children's Legal Unit (MiCLU) at Islington Law Centre; and professor Ravi Kohli, a child welfare expert from the University of Bedfordshire.

Matthew Rogers is an editorial assistant at Solicitors Journal matthew.rogers@solicitorsjournal.co.uk

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Children Local government