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Immigration: Unaccompanied Minors

Volume 694: debated on Monday 16 July 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are considering the appointment of legal guardians for children entering the country (a) where there are grounds for believing that they have been trafficked, and (b) where they are unaccompanied and have no known responsible next of kin, or properly appointed guardians; and whether they can estimate the annual cost of such provision. [HL4741]

Border and Immigration Agency staff at ports and asylum screening units refer all children to local authority children’s services if they have arrived alone or where there are concerns that a child may be at risk of harm. If there is a suspicion that a child has been trafficked, this will be reported to the appropriate authorities. The local authority will assess the care and support required under Sections 17 and 20 of the Children Act 1989. If the child becomes the responsibility of the local authority, it acts as the corporate parent through the appointed social worker. The Government do not believe, therefore, that the appointment of a guardian specifically for trafficked children is necessary or desirable.

Unaccompanied children who then go on to apply for asylum are referred to the Refugee Council children's panel of advisors, which helps find legal representatives for the child. Consequently, the Border and Immigration Agency does not currently appoint a legal representative for an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child.