Specialist immigration lawyer, Ben Davison, has spoken out on the UK’s record of returning over 100 asylum seekers back to Afghanistan and Iraq over the last five years, despite them being originally taken in as unaccompanied children.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed that 138 children were given temporary leave to remain in the UK, but were returned to their country of origin after turning 18, despite the perilous situations they will be returning to in most cases.
A story printed in the Daily Mirror this week highlights the plight of these asylum seekers, some of whom were forced to join the Taliban for their own safety, and yet were tortured and later fled as unaccompanied children to the UK to seek protection from their “enemies”.
Experts in immigration law
Ison Harrison’s Ben Davison is quoted in the article, which discusses the complex legal situation relating to unaccompanied children arriving in the UK. Currently, these asylum seekers are required to make asylum claims through the same process as adults, which includes explaining exactly why returning to their home country would present a personal risk to their safety. Applicants who are rejected are granted leave to remain in the UK until six months before their 18th birthday, and while they can then apply for an extension, few are successful.
In the article, Ben is quoted as saying: “If their appeal is unsuccessful, that’s the point where the Home Office can take removal action. Appeals are more likely to be unsuccessful because if it’s going to be recognised that they will be at risk, it’s usually recognised first time around. They can argue that they have established a private life in the UK, but there are specific rules. Children generally need to have been in the UK for seven years to show it would be unduly harsh to remove them, and those who have been here for a shorter period don’t meet that set criteria.”
The recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is not necessarily sufficient reason for an unaccompanied child to stay in the UK, the applicant still has to prove a specific personal risk. In the meantime, and while they await a decision, the children are often housed in poor asylum accommodation.
At the end of November, 27 asylum seekers drowned in a dinghy while attempting to reach the UK, but a Home Office spokesperson responded: “Those with no right to be in the UK and foreign national offenders should be in no doubt that we will do whatever is necessary to remove them. This is what the public rightly expects and why we regularly operate flights to different countries.”
The spokesperson added that in light of the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, returns from the UK were currently suspended.
How Ison Harrison helps unaccompanied children seeking asylum
Nevertheless, the article highlights the perilous journey asylum seekers have been forced to make, many of them heading to the UK, and indeed, many of them landing in the Yorkshire region where they have found help from Ison Harrison.
Speaking after the Daily Mirror article was published, Ben Davison added:
“I make it about 188 matters in which Ison Harrison have represented asylum-seeking children in the last five years. We’ve acted for children who have arrived in the care of Leeds, Wakefield, North Yorkshire (and York), Kirklees, Hull and East Yorkshire local authorities, and living as far afield as Newark and Doncaster and up to Scarborough.”
In terms of ages, Ben believes Ison Harrison have helped children as young as 10. “That’s officially,” he adds “we suspect one was actually closer to 8. They arrive unaccompanied and on our books and include victims of trafficking and modern slavery from all corners of Asia and Africa.”
This highlights how the work of Ison Harrison often has to transcend what is strictly applicable by law, and comes down to how best to humanely treat people.
If you or anyone you know is aware of unaccompanied children seeking asylum and requiring help with the process, you can contact our immigration and asylum law department at Ison Harrison today.