silhouette hand holding onto iron fence

Unaccompanied children waiting years in ‘limbo’ in asylum system

New research has revealed that unaccompanied children are waiting months and years in limbo in the asylum system and wait times are increasing for them to get legal representation, according to Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU).

The research from GMIAU focuses on the delays children in the North West are facing in getting legal representation and in getting an asylum decision, and the impact it’s having on them. Drawing on their own and Home Office data, interviews and surveys with legal practitioners and social workers, and interviews and participation work with young people.

The research found that children represented by GMIAU who received initial asylum decisions in 2023 have been waiting on average 480 days, up from 89 in 2019.

Social workers, legal representatives and children themselves warn GMIAU clearly of the risk of mental health crisis and suicide for children stuck in limbo – particularly as they approach 18 with no rights to move on with their lives.

They work with children from Sudan who are currently waiting months to be allocated a lawyer, in a legal aid system that is in crisis. Once they finally have one, they find themselves in an asylum system also in crisis, GMIAU said. They added:

“But a child arriving from Sudan today, taking the same journey across oceans and fleeing worsening violence, will – when the Illegal Migration Bill becomes law – be denied access to the asylum system altogether. They will be subject to detention and deportation and left permanently in limbo.”

They call on the government to “scrap the legislation that is burning holes in our international commitments to refugee protection and to create an asylum system that allows people to safely and swiftly access representation, justice and protection, so that all members of our communities and all children in our care are safe”.

Some quotes from young people GMIAU spoke to in their report:

“They have to look at delays for young people, because so many people kill their own selves because of the status”. – Taiwo

“They told me that if you don’t get your status, you are not allowed to work, you are not allowed to stay in this country, you are not allowed to study, and they might send you back to your country. And that really influenced my mental health.” – Faheem

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