Deporting asylum-seeking children ‘places them at risk’

The government has been accused of putting children at risk through proposals to deport failed child asylum seekers.

Currently children that are turned down for asylum in the UK are still allowed to remain until they are 18.

But the government today set out proposals to begin deportation procedures immediately.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne argued the present grace period is a “green light” to people-traffickers who bring children into the UK knowing they cannot be sent home.

However, children’s campaigners warned the threat of immediate deportation would do little to protect children.

The NSPCC argued young people turned down for asylum could go “underground” where they would be more vulnerable to exploitation.

Moreover, the charity is concerned lone children may be unable to make their case for asylum, making it more likely they are rejected.

NSPCC director and chief executive Mary Marsh said: “The UK government appears to be turning its back on children who have been separated from their families and their communities, and who may have suffered trauma or persecution.

“The majority of these children will be alone, frightened and unable to speak English and therefore powerless to explain why their safety depends upon remaining in the UK.”

The government insists children will not be deported unless the authorities are “100 per cent sure” of their safety.

The NSPCC counters safety cannot always be guaranteed and is concerned children will be returned to a dangerous environment.

The charity is calling on the government to guarantee all lone children an independent guardian that can give them the time, support, information, advice and resources necessary to complete the asylum process.

Around 2,000 unaccompanied children claim asylum in the UK every year.

Today the Liberal Democrats claimed the government was failing child asylum seekers, with ten trafficked children disappearing from local authority care every month.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “Thousands of unaccompanied children claim asylum every year, many of them victims of trafficking, yet our system still fails to deal with them humanely.”

He continued: “We are failing in our duty of care, since many disappear back into the hands of their traffickers.”