Friday, 29th January 2021

Following deeply concerning reports of failures to put children’s best interests first and to provide basic care to unaccompanied children seeking sanctuary in the UK, ECPAT UK has joined the Refugee Council and other leading national children's charities calling for the government to urgently provide every unaccompanied child with the specialist care they need.

In an open letter to the Children's Minister, Vicky Ford MP, the charities highlighted the refusal of some local authorities to take vulnerable children into their care, and the failure of central government to find a solution.

In recent months, there have been numerous reports of serious failures to care for unaccompanied children arriving in the UK, with a number of local authorities saying they are at capacity and unable to take any more children into their care.

Additionally, there have been clear failures within the National Transfer Scheme, set up to distribute the care of unaccompanied children more evenly across the country’s local authorities, so that no single local authority faces a disproportionate responsibility to look after unaccompanied children.

The charities’ letter states their support for the government’s proposed ‘rota’ format to the scheme, which aims to reduce delays and make transferring young people more straightforward, “in part by removing barriers to transfer and maintaining the overall principle of ensuring that the best interests of children remain a primary consideration". 

Patricia Durr, CEO of ECPAT UK, said

"Children have been detained in adult immigration detention centres and other facilities that are completely inappropriate for children. The government has legal obligations to provide all children, including unaccompanied children seeking sanctuary, with proper protection and care. This means providing local authorities with the resources they need to meet their duties to look after unaccompanied children.

"It is simply unacceptable to leave children in need of protection and care who have already experienced trauma and abuse, without the basic support they need to stay safe. It leaves them more vulnerable to exploitation and other further harm and increases the risks of trafficking.

"We urge the government to act with the best interests of each child as a primary consideration in all decisions regarding all children, and to immediately implement planned reforms to the National Transfer Scheme, so that every unaccompanied child receives the protection they need."

Read the full letter here


Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK: [email protected], 07402 113 985