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Home Office keeps child refugees ‘in the dark’ about move to UK

Publié le 3-12-2016

Source : www.theguardian.com

Auteur : Mark Townsend

« Children held at French reception centres since Calais camp demolition are distressed by lack of information, says report

The Home Office has been accused of failing to provide sufficient information to child refugees from the demolished Calais camp, in what critics believe is a ploy to try to reduce the number of unaccompanied minors who are likely to enter the UK.

Researchers who visited a series of reception centres in France, where children are being held as their UK applications are processed by Home Office officials, found many children had received insufficient information or none at all.

Their findings, contained in a report by the charity Help Refugees, reveal that the approach had caused severe psychological distress among some youngsters in France, with incidents of self-harming and one child hospitalised. Some children had run away from reception centres. In a detailed 33-page report, volunteers for Help Refugees said : “It was clear from our observations that the Home Office was purposefully remaining silent on important issues that directly affected unaccompanied minors.”

The report, An Uncertain Future, said : “This lack of information was deeply distressing for unaccompanied minors who mostly remained in the dark about their chances of reaching the UK.”

Liz Clegg of Help Refugees said : “Obviously, it suits them [the Home Office] because they have potentially less children to deal with. They never wanted to let these children into the UK in the first place.”

Report co-author Benjamin Hunter said : “It’s a deliberate method of the Home Office getting what they want from the situation without factoring in the wellbeing of the minors.”

Researchers visited 12 of the 85 centres in France last month, interviewing staff and unaccompanied minors. They often found that no basic information had been shared by the Home Office over how many minors would be accepted, or how and when they would be transferred to the UK.

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“This lack of information is causing visible mental distress among minors, some of whom are self-harming. The Home Office has offered no explanation for this. These minors are understandably confused, frustrated and losing faith in the system intended to protect them,” said the report.

One staff member at a centre in Auxonne, eastern France, said the lack of communication with the Home Office, which has six teams of officials touring the French reception centres, was causing distress. “There is no communication [with the Home Office], it’s a big problem for us and for them [the minors].”

The sense of uncertainty has been compounded by uncertainty about when Home Office officials would visit with some children waiting four months despite witnessing other minors being registered and transferred to the UK in a week.

The report documents how one bus carrying 29 child refugees was ready to leave for the UK at the end of October but was cancelled without explanation at the last minute. The children were then dispersed randomly to centres across France and have still not been told when they might be taken to the UK.

Only one of the 12 centres visited had psychologists on staff, with the overall mental health support for children described as “notably deficient” in the report.

The report said it knew of 28 youngsters who had left the 12 centres that were visited by the charity ; the smallest holds six and the largest holds 51.

Clegg said : “I have spoken to some of the absconders, they have gone back to northern France and are sleeping in ditches, sleeping rough with nothing. They had biscuits on the first day, but that was it.”

A Home Office spokesperson said : “We are continuing to work closely with the French government and other partners to identify unaccompanied asylum seeking children who may be eligible to come to the UK.

“Our teams work to the highest professional standards with the aim of ensuring these children are transferred as soon as possible and arrive safely in the UK.

“We have made significant progress in … speeding up the existing processes since the beginning of the year, but the primary responsibility for unaccompanied children in France lies with the French authorities.” »

Voir en ligne : https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news...

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