29 May 2019
Max McClellan and Lucy Gregg from the legal protection team at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in London came to talk to Baobab about their current work on child protection in the UK relating to unaccompanied and separated children. UNHCR has been funded by the EU to undertake three research projects and the talk featured presentations on two of these projects. These reports have been written also with the support of UNICEF and IOM.
Best Interests project
Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child gives every child the right to have his or her best interests assessed and taken into account as a primary consideration in all actions or decisions that concern him or her. UNHCR has been undertaking research to review the current approach to the consideration of the best interests in unaccompanied and separated children’s cases, using an analysis of the existing child protection and asylum systems. This aimed to understand if these systems and procedures are appropriate, and whether they are accessible to unaccompanied children. An expert Advisory Group of eight professionals who have worked extensively in the UK system for many years (including lawyers, social workers, NGOs, judges and academics) advised on the content of the report. Lucy highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the current systems and outlined proposals for alternative approaches. This research will be the first UN commissioned document which provides concrete proposals for how the principle of best interests for unaccompanied and separated children could be strengthened and implemented comprehensively within and across UK procedures.
Children’s Integration Study
This study is on the reception arrangements and early integration support of unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking and refugee children and young people (under 23 years old) in the UK. It is based on interviews with 65 children and young people and 47 key experts (mostly frontline professionals; social workers, service managers, youth workers and foster carers). The research covers areas including the experiences of children on arrival, and in reception and orientation, transfers and resettlement to the UK, care and accommodation, education and English language learning, health and wellbeing, safeguarding and social inclusion. The research was conducted due to an increase in the numbers of unaccompanied refugee children living in the UK in recent years as well as significant changes in the policy environment.
UNHCR is also undertaking a third study which is investigating the motivations as well as push and pull factors of children’s journeys to the UK. All three research reports will be published later this year.