Skip to main content

Care of asylum-seeking children inadequate, says Kindertransport descendant

The daughter of a Kindertransport Jew fleeing Hitler’s Europe has criticised the lack of support given to children escaping conflict zones to the UK as the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day.

Karen Goodman’s mother was 16 when she was one of 10,000 mainly Jewish children sent without their parents to the UK in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution.

The operation, which became known as Kindertransport, saw the children placed in British foster homes, hostels, and farms.

Ms Goodman – a social worker who has spent the last 30 years working in child protection - said children fleeing war-torn countries to the UK today are often inadequately supported.

“My mum is over 90 now. She says when she came on the Kindertransport it was easier because she knew where she was going. For those today it is harder. They don’t know where they will end up.

“Our Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services are woefully inadequate. They have been a victim of cuts and the service wasn't adequate in the first place.

“As a result, the emotional needs of asylum seeking children are in the main not met and the danger is these young people will develop mental health problems, such as post traumatic stress.”

Ms Goodman, who’s mother was originally from Czechoslovakia, said unaccompanied asylum seeking children arriving now are often “re-traumatised” by the immigration and care systems because their specific needs are not supported by adequate resources or policies.

They also face the fear of being deported back to their country of origin as they turn 18, under immigration rules.

Ms Goodman said: “Too many of these children disappear aged 17-and-a-half.

“What would my mother have thought if someone said to her ‘don’t worry, you can stay here another year-and-a-half and then we will return you to occupied Czechoslovakia'.

“Those 10,000 who we allowed into the county in 1939 didn’t have the fear of removal hanging over them, but the children coming in now do.”

In 1938, the British government under Neville Chamberlain agreed to the admission of 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish children following the horror of the Kristallnacht.

The so-called Night of Broken Glass saw Jews murdered and thousands subjected to violence, abuse and torture.

Many of the Kindertransport children subsequently lost their entire families as Hitler implemented his ‘Final Solution’ to annihilate the Jewish population.