Rise in number of young asylum seekers

By Juliette MaxamRISING numbers of unaccompanied child asylum seekers are coming into East Anglia, a leading refugee worker has revealed.So far this year there has been an increase in the number of asylum seekers aged between 14 and 16 coming into the region without their parents, said the chairman of the East of England consortium for asylum seekers, Robin Rennie.

By Juliette Maxam

RISING numbers of unaccompanied child asylum seekers are coming into East Anglia, a leading refugee worker has revealed.

So far this year there has been an increase in the number of asylum seekers aged between 14 and 16 coming into the region without their parents, said the chairman of the East of England consortium for asylum seekers, Robin Rennie.

Many of the youngsters were traumatised by atrocities they had witnessed or been subjected to in their home countries – mainly Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran – and required specialist help to overcome both mental and physical difficulties.


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But among them were some asylum seekers who claimed to be children, but were clearly adults, causing difficulties for refugee workers who must treat them as youngsters until they could prove otherwise, even placing them in the care of foster parents.

Child asylum seekers are the responsibility of local authority social services departments – which get grants from the Home Office to cover the additional expense.

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Some of the youngsters are cared for by foster families, while others are placed in children's homes or a specialist unit, depending on their experience, while every effort is made to trace their families.

"Most children arriving here will have done so with the help of other people. Some have been handed over by their parents," said Mr Rennie.

Some youngsters have been "acquired" by adults, who pass them off as their children to help their own cases.

Young people are coming into the Eastern region through the ports at Harwich and Felixstowe, but also arriving from Kent and London.

Mr Rennie said overall there had been a drop in the number of asylum seekers in East Anglia.

"There are definitely less people coming in. We do believe there's a gap between the numbers coming in and the numbers registering," he added.

"It's possible gangs are becoming more sophisticated about how they traffic people through the system – but that's speculation."

Fears changes to asylum law in January would lead to refugees being forced to sleep on the streets had proved unfounded, said Mr Rennie.

"They don't appear to be on the streets. They don't appear to have ended up in places that would make them stand out. Our conclusion is some are helped by other members of the community and some are picked up by charities," he added.

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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