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Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking and Refugee Children

Volume 628: debated on Monday 11 September 2017

11. When she plans to publish the Government’s strategy on the safeguarding of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children. (900749)

23. When she plans to publish the Government’s strategy on the safeguarding of unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children. (900761)

The safeguarding strategy, bringing together all work in this area and setting out further detail, will be published later this autumn.

This strategy was due on 1 May, so I am keen that we see it as soon as possible. I would like to understand the reasons for the delay and to know whether the Minister has looked at whether independent guardians might work. I was struck when I visited Lesbos and Calais that there is no admin support or signposting at all for unaccompanied children seeking to make asylum claims, so having somebody with them would definitely help.

We had a general election this year, which derailed some of the timetables for these things, but it is certainly absolutely vital that all unaccompanied children seeking asylum have access to independent legal advice and are referred to the Children’s Panel.

Statistics from the organisation Every Child Protected Against Trafficking show that just in 2015, 593 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children went missing from care. Charities such as the Refugee Council and the Children’s Society have recommended that independent guardians be appointed for such children, to protect them in future. Will the Minister consider this in the safeguarding strategy?

I was the immigration Minister until just recently and worked in this area. We were well aware of the fact that some of the relatives who took children in under the Dublin regulation had not had much contact with the families beforehand and that that might not have worked out very well, but I am certainly happy to look at what the hon. Lady is saying, particularly in the light of her experience with Amnesty and Save the Children.