Asylum-seeking children face removal

Will get tough policy extend to children?
Will get tough policy extend to children?

Children under-18 whose claims for asylum have been refused could be sent back to their country of origin under a new Home Office pilot scheme.

In the past three years, nearly 9,000 unaccompanied children have arrived in Britain to claim asylum.

Responsibility for these children's welfare is automatically assumed by social services. Until now, the Home Office has not sought to deport those whose asylum applications have failed until they turn 18.

But, the Government is now exploring the possibility of a pilot project to return some of these under-18s.

No definite details have emerged, but a number of media organisations claim that a project is soon to be set up with Albania.

The Government insists that it is often in the child's best interests to be returned to their home community sooner rather than later, but a number of children and refugee groups have expressed grave concerns.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that it was perfectly possible to return such children safely.

In a statement, the Home Office told that: "We've said for a long time that we are developing a returns programme for UASC [unaccompanied asylum seeking children] who are under 18 and whose asylum and humanitarian protection claims have been refused. We have been exploring how we can establish reception and longer-term care arrangements in countries of origin.

"We believe that it's possible to return children in a way that is safe and sustainable for them. We do not believe that it is right that children who can return should remain in the UK indefinitely separated from their families and communities."

He added that the UK would always abide by its international obligations.