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Not just a temporary fix: summary

The search for durable solutions for separated migrant children

Separated migrant children are those children who have become separated from their parents or carers once outside their country of origin. In the UK, thousands of these children are seeking protection from persecution, war and violence, while others may also be victims of human trafficking and exploitation. Others will have been estranged from their family following a breakdown or abandonment, or have ended up on their own after the death of a parent. These children face exceptionally difficult circumstances and lack the care of parents and family, increasing their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse, creating a unique and complex set of needs. Many of these children require support and care from the immigration and welfare systems in this country.

This report highlights that while these existing support systems predominantly focus on addressing the immediate safety and stability of these children, consideration of their long-term needs is often forgotten about or avoided altogether. It finds that, for a sizeable number of these children, no clear resolution to their situation is considered, and when they reach adulthood they face a process which can leave them in a legal limbo, without support and facing destitution. The Home Office is eager to return these young people to their countries of origin as part of its function to control migration. While it is important to make sure that children are united with their families when and where it is safe, the current policies and processes do not allow for this to happen systematically in a way that is consistent with children’s best interests. This is in part because there is currently no formal process in place to assess these children’s best interests and to recommend a course of action, while other prevailing policies limit the options available to these children.

These children need a ‘durable solution’ – a lasting outcome which addresses all of their needs, considers their own view and leads to the child developing the independence, responsibility and resilience necessary to become an active member of society, whether they remain in England or return to their country of origin.

Whilst recognising that there is no single common durable solution and that each separated child will have varying needs, this report looks at what exists in practice and what should improve. It concludes that the current options available to these children are not truly durable solutions and there is no adequate process in place for government agencies to identify one.