- Introduction to Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children
- Asylum Eligibility Criteria for Unaccompanied Children
- How to Claim Asylum in the UK for Unaccompanied Children
- Streamlined Asylum Processing for Unaccompanied Children
- Support Available for Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children
- How Manchester Immigration Lawyers Can Help
- Frequently Asked Questions
Introduction to Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children
According to the Refugee Council, between September 2021 and September 2022, there were 5,152 claims for asylum made by unaccompanied children in the United Kingdom.
The majority of these unaccompanied children are aged between 14 and 17 years old and are from Sudan, as well as other countries such as Afghanistan, Albania, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
Asylum claims made by unaccompanied children are treated differently than those made by an adult applicant, recognising the vulnerability of the child applicant and their additional welfare needs.
While waiting for their asylum decision, children will be able to:
- Use free healthcare services provided by the National Health Service (NHS).
- Access free education opportunities.
- Access housing support.
- Apply for financial support.
- Access care placements through a local authority.
Asylum Eligibility Criteria for Unaccompanied Children
An applicant is considered to be an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child if they:
- Are under the age of 18 years old.
- Intend to claim asylum in the UK in their own right and not as a named dependent in an adult’s asylum application.
- Are separated from both of their parents and are not being cared for by an adult.
The child’s unaccompanied status does not need to be permanent. For example, they may reunite with family members at a later date.
To claim asylum in the United Kingdom, the child must be able to show that it would be unsafe for them to remain in their home country or country of usual residence due to persecution on the grounds of:
- Their race or nationality
- Their gender or sexual orientation
- Their religion or spiritual beliefs
- Their political opinions or affiliations
- Other social or cultural factors
If the asylum-seeking child has travelled with an adult relative who is also claiming asylum in the UK, they should be included as a dependent in the adult’s claim.
Applications for asylum may not be considered if the child:
- Is an EU national or resident
- Has travelled through a safe third country en route to the UK.
- Can claim asylum in another safe third country in which they have an existing connection.
A country is classified as a safe third country if it is one where the unaccompanied child:
- Does not hold citizenship or residency
- Would not be at risk of persecution or harm in
- Would not be sent to another country where they would be at risk of persecution or harm if they applied for asylum in
Step 1: Register Asylum Claim
To begin the asylum process, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children need to register their intention to claim asylum.
They should do this as soon as they become aware that it would be unsafe to return to their home country. Any delay may increase the chance that their asylum claim will be refused.
How they should do this depends on their circumstances.
At the port of entry
They can register their claim by telling a Border Force officer that they wish to claim asylum when they reach the UK border.
They should explain that they are an unaccompanied child and let them know if you require an interpreter.
Already in the UK
If the unaccompanied child has already entered the United Kingdom but is not currently in the care of social services, they should visit the asylum intake unit walk-in service to register their asylum claim.
If there is an adult who is taking responsibility for their care, they must come to the asylum intake unit with them. The adult should also bring proof of address and photo ID, such as their driving licence or passport.
Alternatively, if the child is currently in the care of social services, they should contact the Asylum Intake Unit by calling 0300 123 4193 to book an appointment.
During the call, social services will need to provide:
- Basic personal information such as the child’s name, date of birth, and nationality
- The child’s passport or national identity document number, or
- The child’s birth certificate number
- Contact details for the child’s foster carer
- Information about any medical conditions the child currently has
Step 2: Child Welfare Interview
Unlike the adult asylum process, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children do not have to attend an initial screening interview.
Instead, a child welfare interview will be arranged to determine their immediate needs and safeguarding requirements.
The Home Office will contact the local authority’s children’s services at the earliest possible time, to allow them to put support in place. However, in the event of an emergency, the police will be called.
Where possible, a responsible adult, such as a social worker or Refugee Council representative, may also attend to ensure the interviewer acts in their best interests.
During the interview, welfare checks will be undertaken, including risk assessments for abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM), modern slavery, or the likelihood of going missing. If the interviewer has any concerns, they will contact the local safeguarding officer to put in place protective measures.
The unaccompanied child will not be asked about why you are claiming asylum at this stage.
All of this information will be recorded on the welfare form (ASL.5097). This form will be given to the child’s social worker and placed on their file.
The social worker will then be able to arrange further assessments of the child’s health, education, and other needs to help the local authorities put the appropriate support in place.
After completing the welfare form,
- The child may undergo an assessment where the interviewer is not satisfied that they are under 18.
- They will have your fingerprints and digital photographs taken. Children under the age of 18 will only have their photograph taken.
- Their case will be referred to the National Asylum Allocation Unit to be processed. They will be assigned a case team within the local authority responsible for their care.
- An application registration card (ARC) will be requested and sent to the official address listed on their file.
When their welfare interview has been completed, they should be provided:
- A copy of their completed welfare form
- Either a:
- Bail 201 form (notification of grant or variation of bail form)
- IS.248 (notice of restriction to a person who has made an in-country, in-time claim for asylum)
- A Statement of Evidence Form (SEF) featuring a return date that is within 60 days from the date their welfare form was completed. The child should complete this and return it before the stated deadline, usually 28 days after the welfare interview.
Step 3: After The Welfare Interview
After the asylum-seeking child’s welfare interview, they should complete your SEF by the deadline and send it to the address advised. They should also gather any evidence that may support their claim for asylum in the United Kingdom.
Their allocated decision-making team will discuss the progress of their case at a case review event.
During this meeting, their allocated decision-making team will check on the progress of the child’s SEF, ensure they have legal representation, and answer any questions the social worker may have. The child will only be asked to attend this meeting in exceptional circumstances.
Under Regulation 6 of the Asylum Seekers (Reception Conditions) Regulations 2005, the Secretary of State must trace the family of any unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK, where it is appropriate to the claim. If it is deemed inappropriate, the child will be notified of this decision in writing.
If there are no issues in tracing the child’s family, they will be advised of the British Red Cross tracing service. However, the use of this service is the child’s decision, and any information discovered through it will be confidential.
Step 4: Substantive Interview
The majority of applicants over 12 years old will have a substantive interview. However, where it is not in the child’s best interest, their case will be referred to a senior manager or His Majesty’s Inspector for consideration.
Children under the age of 12 may still be interviewed if they are deemed to be mature and cooperative.
A parent, guardian, or representative must be present during the substantive interview of an unaccompanied child.
If required, it is important that the child attends this interview. If they fail to attend without having a reasonable explanation, their claim could be considered withdrawn.
At all times during the interview, the child’s welfare should take priority, and questions should always be appropriate for their age. However, they may still find some of the questions upsetting, especially when explaining their reasons for asylum.
If the child has turned 18 years old before their substantive interview takes place, officials should continue to follow this process.
Step 5: Asylum Decision
When the Home Office has decided on the child’s asylum case, they will be notified in writing.
Depending on their circumstances and the information provided, the asylum-seeking child may receive one of the following decisions:
- Permission to remain for 2.5 to 5 years after being granted refugee status
- Permission to remain for 2.5 years for humanitarian protection (HP) reasons where they did not qualify for refugee status under the Refugee Convention but would still be at risk if they returned to their home country.
- Asylum is refused, but unaccompanied asylum-seeking child leave is granted where the applicant is under 17.5 years old. Leave will be granted for 30 months or until they reach 17.5 years old, whichever is shorter. The child may be eligible for this type of leave if:
- the child is not eligible for refugee status, humanitarian protection, family leave, or discretionary leave
- Suitable arrangements cannot be made in the child’s home country.
- Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) if the child has exceptional circumstances
- Asylum application is refused with no right to remain.
If an application is refused, the next steps will be explained in the refusal letter, including whether the child has the right to appeal the decision.
If an application has been refused with no right to remain, the child applicant can submit an appeal within 14 days of the date on the decision letter.
The Home Office has introduced streamlined asylum processing to speed up the asylum claim process and reduce the case backlog.
Unaccompanied children who wish to claim asylum in the UK will follow the streamlined asylum process if they:
- Submitted a claim for asylum before 6th March 2023, while they were under the age of 18 years old. Applicants may still be eligible for the streamlined process if they are now older than 18.
- Are waiting to receive an initial decision.
- Are from either Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria, or Vietnam.
After registering their claim for asylum and undertaking a welfare interview, Home Office officers will determine if the child is eligible for the streamlined process.
Preliminary Information Meeting
If deemed to be eligible for streamlined asylum processing, the child will receive an invitation to a Preliminary Information Meeting (PIM).
It is recommended that this meeting does not take place until they have been in the care of the local authority for at least 2 weeks.
A responsible adult must be present during the meeting to safeguard their welfare and ensure Home Officer officials act in their best interest.
During this meeting, the child will be asked about the following:
- To confirm their identity and show their Application Registration Card (ARC).
- If they have any health or emotional needs that they need support with.
- If they are comfortable proceeding with the meeting.
- Further details about their claim for asylum, including the circumstances that made them feel unsafe in their home country. They should also provide any evidence they have that may support their claim.
If the interviewer believes they have satisfied the criteria for asylum, they may grant protection status without attending a substantive interview.
Alternatively, the interviewer may decide:
- To arrange a short, targeted interview where further information is required.
- To arrange a substantive interview where they feel the child did not satisfy the criteria for protection status.
- To arrange an interview where they feel their child is eligible for humanitarian protection.
- To end the meeting where the child’s claim is too complex to be dealt with within the streamlined asylum process. In this situation, they will be informed of the next steps.
Support Available for Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children
Local authorities must safeguard and protect the welfare of unaccompanied or trafficked children who wish to claim asylum in the UK.
The child will be considered a Child in Need, giving them access to extra support including financial, housing, health and education services.
Where the unaccompanied or trafficked child does not have a parent or legal guardian who can or is willing to provide accommodation, the child will be eligible for accommodation provided by the local authority under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.
After being accommodated in Section 20 accommodation for 24 hours, that child will be classed as a Looked After child, requiring local authorities to provide sufficient support to safeguard the child’s health and welfare and meet their developmental needs.
The support provided by local authorities may include:
- Foster care for children under the age of 16
- Semi-independent or independent accommodation for children over the age of 16
- Financial support covering educational, travel, or other expenses.
Under the National Transfer Scheme, unaccompanied children do not need to be cared for by the local authority responsible for the area in which the child first entered the UK. This means that the applicant may be moved to a different area in the United Kingdom with greater capacity.
Unaccompanied children who wish to seek asylum are extremely vulnerable.
Adapting to the legal and cultural complexities of their situation while they are alone in another country is an extremely overwhelming experience.
In this situation, it’s important to get expert advice to safeguard the asylum-seeking child’s welfare.
If you need advice about unaccompanied child asylum applications in the UK, Manchester Immigration Lawyers can help.
Our team of friendly and understanding solicitors and legal advisors are the UK’s leading immigration specialists. We have years of experience dealing with asylum applications in the UK, including unaccompanied young people.
Whether you would like guidance about an asylum application or help with an appeal, we are waiting to guide you through the entire process.
For advice and support with your application, call Manchester Immigration Lawyers on (+44) 0161 826 9783, contact us online, or visit one of our UK offices.
Last modified on November 10th, 2023 at 9:46 am
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If officials believe that the applicant has given an inaccurate age, further age assessments will be made based on personal history and ethnic and cultural information.
Where it is believed the applicant is falsely claiming to be a child, immediate age assessments should be made based on physical appearance and demeanour under the Croydon Judgement 2009.
However, age assessments cannot be determined solely by appearance unless it is clear the applicant is an adult.
Where age is disputed, local authorities are required to treat the applicant as a child until it is proven otherwise.
If it is determined that the applicant is significantly over the age of 18, support services and permission to remain in the UK may be withdrawn or refused.
When an unaccompanied child turns 18 years old, they will be supported by local authorities as they transition into adult life.
How the former unaccompanied child is assisted will vary depending on the local authority and their personal circumstances; however, this will usually involve leaving care services.
The child will be supported through these services until they are at least 21 years old, or 25 years old if they are in education or training.
If the child is granted refugee status, they have the right to work and can claim welfare and social benefits.
A Pathway Plan may be made to help the child independently, and they may be assigned a personal advisor for further support.
If a child’s claim for UASC leave has been refused or withdrawn, they will be notified in writing and provided with the reason for the decision.
UASC leave and support services may be refused or withdrawn if the applicant falsely claimed to be under 18 years old when they submitted their application.
Where it is established that the applicant has attempted to obtain permission to remain through deception, illegal entry action may be taken, rendering their leave invalid and liable to removal from the UK.