Friday, September 19, 2014

Conference for legal and social care professionals launches reports to support safeguarding unaccompanied, migrant children

A conference held today (Friday 19 September) will call for co-operation between different actors in legal and judicial proceedings involving unaccompanied and trafficked migrant children.

‘Working together to ensure the protection and reception of unaccompanied children in Europe’ will recommend the development of children’s courts and highlight the need for multi-agency participation.

The conference launches a new tool for professionals, including social workers, police, immigration officers and lawyers in the form of a standards report which to help ensure that these children are fully able to participate in legal processes and that the right decisions made about their future.

The event is co-hosted by Garden Court Chambers and Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC). Kamena Dorling, Policy and Programmes Manager at CCLC said:

“Migrant children who are without parents or guardians in the UK depend on legal and social care professionals recognising them as children first and foremost.

They are subject to a complicated series of legal procedures, courts and tribunals and a lack of communication between lawyers and other professionals can have devastating consequences for their welfare.

In addition to the immigration and asylum system, they may be wrongly charged with a criminal offence as a victim of trafficking or have to take legal action in order to dispute an assertion that they are over 18, or be a party to family proceedings because of child protection concerns.

As asylum applications from children have fallen (from around 6,000 in 2002 to just over 1,000 in 2014) many asylum seeking children teams have closed. Therefore the children who remain in the system are no longer likely to be assigned a social worker with the necessary specialist skills and knowledge to support them.

Without sufficient training and awareness of their rights, our concern is that these vulnerable children are at an increased risk of abuse or exploitation.”

The conference is organised as part of the EU funded CONNECT Project, looking at practice in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden.

The CONNECT project report, ‘Always migrants - sometimes children’, identifies good practice and areas for improvement in the UK.

‘Tool to Assist Actors in Legal and Judicial Proceedings’ aims to improve the support provided within the legal system.

Both reports were produced by Nadine Finch of Garden Court Chambers, acting for Coram Children’s Legal Centre.

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