Children deported from UK alone with no safety checks

Britain is in breach of its legal obligations
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The Independent Online

Hundreds of vulnerable children are being deported alone from Britain with "no precautions to safeguard them against trafficking or abuse". The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has been accused by a solicitor specialising in immigration and asylum of showing a "systematic disregard" for children, after putting them on planes out of the country with no checks on their safety or welfare.

At total of 334 unaccompanied children who claimed asylum in Britain since 2004 have been deported, according to Home Office figures. Last year, 36 unaccompanied children were put on planes out of the UK, an increase of 44 per cent on 2008.

Seized in dawn raids, they are often left destitute and homeless after being expelled from Britain. Most are removed under an agreement reached in 2003 to return asylum-seekers to their first European point of entry. But the agreement is meant to apply to unaccompanied children only if their safety and well-being in the first country is assured beforehand.

Despite this, there is mounting evidence that even the most basic checks are not taking place. Next month, the High Court will examine the cases of two youngsters deported from the UK to determine whether officials have been acting unlawfully.

In one case, child T, a 16-year-old Eritrean girl who came to Britain via Italy, where she had been raped and forced to work as a prostitute, was seized in a dawn raid and returned to Italy without notice. No steps were taken to ensure she would be supported on arrival. Italian officials, unaware of her situation, offered no help. She was left on the streets where eventually a male stranger took her in.

A High Court judge, granting permission for the judicial review last month, said he found the girl's treatment "extremely worrying". Mr Justice Collins added: "I have no doubt whatever that the manner of removal, done as it was on the same day, without any opportunity for the minor to contact any lawyer or, indeed, any social worker or anyone else who may be able to assist, was unlawful."

Liz Barratt, from Bindmans, who acts for both children, said: "Both cases suggest UKBA's systematic disregard for young people subject to immigration control, and a disregard of their own policies, as well as statutory duties to children."

Hugh Ind, UKBA's director for protection, insisted: "The agency has a policy commitment that no unaccompanied child will be removed from the UK unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that safe and adequate reception arrangements are in place in the country to which the child is to be removed."

Anthony Steen MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Human Trafficking, said: "The Government say their policy is not to return vulnerable children, but the reality is they get rid of them as quickly as they can. There's no place of safety for them."