Background

The Syrian refugee crisis, coupled with the current political situation in the Middle East and North Africa, has resulted in an ever increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children entering Europe. Concerns over these children have been raised by several organisations, especially after Europol warned at least 10,000 unaccompanied children have gone missing since entering Europe.

In January 2016, the Government announced a new initiative to resettle unaccompanied refugee children directly from conflict regions, in addition to the existing Syrian refugee resettlement programme. However, the Government has made it clear that they do not intend to offer resettlement to refugees already in Europe, or participate in the EU relocation schemes. This is despite calls from organisations such as Save the Children who have recently called on the Government to resettle 3,000 child refugees from around Europe.

An amendment to the Immigration Bill 2015-16, moved in the Lords, requires the Home Secretary to make arrangements to relocate to the UK and provide support to 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children currently in other countries in Europe. This amendment was agreed upon by 306 votes to 204.

In 2015, there were 3,043 asylum applications received from Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC). This was a rise of 56% on 2014, and 141% on 2013. More than half of all applications were from Eritrea (694), Afghanistan (656) and Albania (456). An UASC is a person who is under 18 applying for asylum on their own with no relative or guardian in the United Kingdom.

Asylum Applications from Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

 

Applications

Initial Decisions

Grants

Refusals

2006

3,333

2,622

2,086

441

2007

3,489

3,034

2,130

581

2008

3,976

2,718

2,063

511

2009

2,857

2,800

2,224

383

2010

1,515

1,836

1,364

263

2011

1,248

1,066

794

145

2012

1,125

681

504

90

2013

1,265

1,112

758

178

2014

1,945

1,269

834

154

2015

3,043

1,932

1,216

343

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics October to December 2015, Data Tables, vol. 3 tables 8 & 9

A full range of statistics on asylum and migration is available from the Home Office Migration Statistics and the Immigration Statistics October to December 2015 Data Tables.

Currently, refugee family reunion rules allow refugees in the UK to be joined by their dependent children under 18. However, there have been calls by campaigners to extend this scheme to other dependent relationships as well. This issue has also been discussed in debate over the Immigration Bill 2015-16.

Concerns have also been raised over what happens to children given asylum status once they turn 18. According to The Children’s Society, most UASCs are given temporary leave to remain which expires once they become 18, meaning they have to reapply for asylum or immigration status. This is a system The Children’s Society argues, ‘fails to represent a lasting, permanent solution, leaving young people anxious and uncertain about their future and storing up problems until the young person begins their transition into adulthood’.

Reports from other organisations

Selected Press Articles

The following is a small selection of press and media articles which may be relevant to this debate. Please note, the Library is not responsible for the views expressed in, nor the accuracy of, external content.

Parliamentary Business

The migration crisis in Europe and what the UK Government is doing to assist has been regularly debated in Parliament over recent years. The following is a small selection of the most recent business in relation to unaccompanied children:

Library Briefings

The following House of Commons Library briefings provide further background to this debate:

Debate packs are intended to provide a summary or overview of the issues being debated and identify any relevant briefings including press and parliamentary material. A more detailed briefing may be prepared for a Member on request to the Library.


Related posts

  • An analysis of asylum statistics and trends in the UK and EU countries. Statistics on asylum seekers and refugees in the UK are published by the Home Office, while statistics on asylum in EU28 countries are published by Eurostat. These statistics contain data on the number of people applying for asylum, the outcomes of asylum applications, and the number of people being resettled to the UK. This edition contains a new section on asylum applications and Channel crossings in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.