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UK Politics

Report calls for 'fundamental change' in treatment of child asylum seekers who arrive in Britain alone

Allowing them to complete their education after they turn 18 would bring immigration law in line with legislation for British children leaving care

Unaccompanied child asylum seekers who are currently ordered to leave Britain when they turn 18 should be allowed to complete their education first, the Children’s Commissioner for England says.

A report published today by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner calls for a “fundamental change” to the way children are treated in the asylum system.

The disruption to the lives and education of those children whose immigration status means they are made to leave at 18, is particularly highlighted. The findings come after the furore over A-level student Yashika Bageerathi, who was sent back to Mauritius before she completed her studies because she had passed her 18th birthday.

Instead of being automatically deported at 18, young people who come to Britain alone and claim asylum should be supported until they finish their studies, Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England argues. This would bring immigration law in line with legislation for British children leaving care.

Ms Atkinson said: “None of us at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner believe in open or unguarded borders. But these are children when they arrive here, often traumatised and in the cases of these we worked with for this study, unaccompanied and unsupported.

She added: “It makes sense to ensure young people required to leave the UK have the best chance of integrating into and becoming active members of their future communities. Allowing them to complete their education in the UK provides the best chance for a sustainable return.”

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “This report shines a much needed spotlight on the fact that the government is failing to protect young asylum seekers, who fled their countries alone as children, from abuse and exploitation.

“By denying them support after they turn 18, the Government is forcing many of these young people into destitution. Many are being left homeless, without money, food or access to medical care. This is unacceptable and puts their health and well-being at risk.”

A Home Office spokeswoman did not respond to questions from The Independent.