The Children's Commissioner for England has called for a “fundamental change to the way children in the asylum system are treated”, saying that they should be supported until they have finished their studies.
This would bring immigration law in line with legislation for British children leaving care. “None of us at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner believe in open or unguarded borders,” said Dr Atkinson.
“But these are children when they arrive here, often traumatised and in the cases of these we worked with for this study, unaccompanied and unsupported. It makes sense to ensure young people required to leave the UK have the best chance of integrating into and becoming active members of their future communities. Allowing them to complete their education in the UK provides the best chance for a sustainable return.”
Many young migrants who have fled their countries, often unaccompanied, to escape war, human rights abuses and exploitation, find once they reach the UK their ordeal is far from over.
Once they turn 18, they are not offered the protection and other services they may be entitled to if assessed as children. This includes education – the law states that once they are 18, unaccompanied children have to return to their country of origin, despite the disruption and trauma this causes. As their discretionary leave comes to an end, children may apply for an extension. However, the numbers of young people who receive it is very low
Matthew Reed of The Children's Society added: “By denying them support after they turn 18, the Government is forcing many of these young people into destitution. Many are being left homeless, without money, food or access to medical care. This is unacceptable and puts their health and well-being at risk.”
Student Yashika Bageerathi is one young person who has been affected by the legislation, having fled with her family from a violent relative in 2011, when aged 16. She was recently deported to Mauritius before she completed her A-levels and her bid for asylum was turned down. The principal of her school said: “It seems to me just totally lacking in compassion and humanity... if she had just been allowed to take her A-levels her mum had agreed the whole family would have left at the end.” The Home Office's decision was that she did not need protection from violence or persecution in her homeland.
The campaign for Yashika has raised donations which are being used by her North London school to help fight for change so youngsters can be granted time to take their exams. The rest will form a fund for Yashika to try to ensure she can take her A levels in a suitable venue.
Find out more information about the campaign at http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-rt-hon-theresa-may-mp-home-secretary-fightforyashika-stop-this-sixth-form-student-being-deported-alone-she-deserves-a-future