Experiences of Supporting Separated Children in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Tom Adams, Advocate with the Independent Advocacy Pilot

Before moving to Ireland in 2011 I worked as a keyworker for an organisation that provides semi-independent accommodation and support to separated children (or unaccompanied asylum seeking children, as they are deemed in the UK) in London. I will give a brief overview of how the asylum process for unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the United Kingdom (UK) contrasts to Ireland.

Age Assessment & the Provision of Care

When a person arrives in the UK seeking asylum they generally come to the attention of the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA), the equivalent of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner in Ireland. As in Ireland, the provision available to minors is very different to that of adults so UKBA make an initial decision as to whether a person’s ‘physical appearance and/or demeanour very strongly indicates that they are significantly over 18′. If deemed to be adults they could potentially be selected for the morally reprehensible ‘Detained Fast Track’ procedure, which requires them to be detained while waiting for their decision. A recent Children’s Legal Centre report indicated that as a result of this procedure children, erroneously classified as adults by UKBA, are being held in detention. The detention of children was a previous policy of the UK government, with children of failed asylum seekers detained in the Family Unit of the notorious Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre between 2001 and 2010, before public outcry led to its closure. In its prohibition of detaining children for immigration purposes Ireland has been less regressive than the UK.

If those seeking asylum in the UK are deemed to be minors (or not significantly over 18) they fall under the care of a Local Authority (LA). This differs from Ireland, which places separated children under the care of the HSE. The types of care utilised is Continue reading “Experiences of Supporting Separated Children in the United Kingdom and Ireland”

Experiences of Supporting Separated Children in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Assessment of Credibility in Protection Claims from Children

Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council

In October 2012, a report entitled Difficult to believe: the assessment of asylum claims in Ireland’ was published by the Irish Refugee Council, analysing the approach taken by both the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) to applications for asylum. The report was based upon research undertaken between June and September 2012.

Of the 86 files included in the research, ten were claims by children (Six girls and four boys. One was a claim for family reunion and did not give rise to any issue under the Refugee Convention).  Of these, three were born in Ireland to parents who were already in the asylum process. Children born after the parents claim asylum are required to claim asylum in order for the family to receive additional support for the child through the Reception and Integration Agency.  This means without applying for asylum, the child would not be entitled to accommodation or the €9.60 allowance. The oldest of the three was just five months old when her father was interviewed about why she had claimed asylum.  The claims of all three children were dismissed on the grounds that the credibility of their parents’ applications had already been held to be lacking in credibility.

In the case of a Nigerian woman who feared that her daughter would be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM), one of the reasons for dismissing the child’s claim was that the mother had failed to disclose in her application that she had applied for asylum in Italy.  As the mother’s credibility had been dismissed in an earlier application, ORAC stated:

It follows that there is no credible objective basis to the fear attributed to the applicant by her mother.

In the combined appeal of the other two children, there was Continue reading “Assessment of Credibility in Protection Claims from Children”

Assessment of Credibility in Protection Claims from Children

Aged Out Minors in Ireland: Who in the world loses everything when they turn 18? Separated children in Ireland

Jenna Cains is an outreach worker with the Integration and Support Unit of the Edmond Rice Centre.

The term Aged-Out Minor (AOM) is used to describe a separated child who has turned 18 years old and is now an adult in the eyes of the State. There is no family celebration for these young people though. Upon turning 18 a Separated child’s life changes dramatically.. They are moved out of Dublin to a new city, losing their circle of friends and supports; they change school; they move from a residential setting or even a foster home to a mixed-sex adult hostel; they lose their social worker and any other support service they were engaged with in Dublin.  In the past, separated children were housed in single-sex hostels and some of the AOMs in Waterford would have come from these types of minor accommodation.  In 2010, the Health Service Executive (HSE) began to phase these hostels out.  Separated children living in these hostels were a tight-knit community.  A lot of the young people were known to support each other.  They were involved with the same volunteer groups and support services and spent a lot of time together.  At just 18 they are forced to start again in a new city, picking up the pieces of a life they have no control over.  Only now they are mainstream adult asylum seekers. The prospect is so terrifying that some Separated children chose to abscond before their 18th birthday rather than face the prospect of turning 18 in the ‘system’. And make no mistake, as terrifying as this is, one AOM described the move from Dublin to Waterford ‘as bad as the move from Africa to Ireland’.

AOMs started ‘officially’ being moved to Waterford from Dublin by the Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) and the HSE in 2010. However there were relocations before that and the city already had a number of ‘unrecognised minors’, or those under the age of 18 who were placed directly in to adult accommodation. The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, may have made an inaccurate age determination.

The process of relocation to Waterford differs for each young person, ranging from smooth to Continue reading “Aged Out Minors in Ireland: Who in the world loses everything when they turn 18? Separated children in Ireland”

Aged Out Minors in Ireland: Who in the world loses everything when they turn 18? Separated children in Ireland

UNHCR #do1thing: Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Who is a refugee?

A refugee is somebody who is outside her country citizenship, or the country where she formerly lived, and is unable or unwilling to return to this country as she fears persecution on the basis of her race, nationality, religion, membership or a particular social group or political opinion. This is the definition set down in the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol on the Status of Refugees. In Ireland, this definition is set down in Section 2 of the Refugee Act 1996. If an asylum seeker is recognised by Ireland as a refugee, she has a right to reside in Ireland, the right to work, the right to claim social assistance, the right to enter further education and the right to bring certain family members to Ireland.

Who is an asylum seeker?

“Let us remember that a bogus asylum-seeker is not equivalent to a criminal; and that an unsuccessful asylum application is not equivalent to a bogus one.”- Kofi Annan

An asylum seeker is a person who claims to be in need of refugee protection but whose claim for refugee status has yet to be determined. In Ireland, an asylum seeker’s claim for refugee status is determined by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC). If ORAC does not recognise a person as a refugee, she can then appeal to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT). Legal advice and legal representation is provided to asylum seekers by the Refugee Legal Service, which is a specialised office in the Legal Aid Board.

While awaiting her claim to be processed and decided, an asylum seeker is prohibited from working. She is accommodated in the direct provision system, where she receives bed and board, along with a payment of €19.60 per week (and €9.60 per week per child). An asylum seeker is not entitled to any other form of social assistance payment while in Ireland. Asylum seekers are entitled to free health care, and child asylum seekers or child dependents of asylum seekers are entitled to the same right to education as Irish children. Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants and are entitled to remain in the state until such time as their refugee claim has been granted or rejected. The recognition rate of asylum seekers as refugees in Ireland is just under 2%, the lowest recognition rate in the European Union.

UNHCR #do1thing: Refugees and Asylum Seekers