Mind in Bexley’s research on young former unaccompanied asylum seeking children in East Kent
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) come to the UK to escape war or persecution in their home countries. They enter the UK Care system but many find that they have limited rights to remain in the UK when they reach adulthood.
This Mind in Bexley project interviewed young people to establish their perspectives on their experiences in the UK with a view to making recommendations for how services could be improved. All but one of the research participants (n=8) have been refused refugee status so find themselves threatened with destitution, detention and deportation. They describe moving from feeling part of the UK, in Care and legally resident, to marginalisation and disentitlement as migrants facing immigration control, detention and deportation. The eight male participants in this study originally came from Eritrea, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and have lived in the UK between three and eight years.
The interviews reveal their perspectives on their experience in the UK and identify specific threats to their mental health and wellbeing.
These threats are:
• Being an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child and accordingly having suffered the loss of family and home at an early age
• An often-dangerous journey and traumatic experiences in country of birth.
• Living within the Care and asylum systems in the UK
• Age assessment and asylum seeking processes, especially Immigration appeals, that young people have found confusing and punitive
• Rejection of asylum cases and adult immigration controls which include reporting, detention, destitution and the threat of deportation.
Mental health and wellbeing
• The young people describe their poor mental health and wellbeing detailing how they live with anxiety, loss, sleeplessness and uncertainty about the future.
• They describe feeling unsupported and a lack of on-going treatment and care
• We make recommendations for how services could respond.
To accompany this research, we had produced an oral and visual exhibition and a video has been made by an independent film maker with the young people from the KRAN mentoring project in Canterbury. Along with selections from the interview transcripts and the young people’s artwork, this video will be used in the Exhibition that is an additional output of this project. Throughout this Project we have begun with the testimony of the young people to foreground their experience and opinions. The interviews were clearly difficult for most of the young people but they were motivated by a desire to improve services and the experiences of new arrivals.
The project will be exhibited at the University of Kent w/c 17TH July.