True Vision

films that make a difference

Britain's Refugee Children

Britain's Refugee Children
Back to ‘Our Films’
47 minutes
Keira Malik
Ludo Graham
Executive Producer:
Brian Woods

The number of refugees around the world is soaring, with estimates of around 65 million displaced people across the planet. But for those lucky few who manage to escape to a new country, what’s it like to try to build a new life?  ‘Britain’s Refugee Children’ follows 6 young would-be asylum-seekers in South Wales, to reveal some of the huge challenges of being a young refugee in Britain today.

For six months, the film-makers followed a group of 6 recently arrived young refugees and asylum-seekers.  Some arrived with their families, but some arrived alone, having left their friends and families behind in countries that were often torn apart by war and internal strife.  We were present when some of them received the crucial Home Office decision about whether or not they would be allowed to continue staying in the UK – or be returned to their war-torn homes.

The young people face daily challenges at home and at school, not least with learning a foreign language from scratch, while often the parents struggle to learn English, find a suitable home and prepare themselves for a new life in a foreign land.  And for some of the young people, the fear of being sent back to their home countries is a constant anxiety.

Abdul (11) and Rawan(12) fled Syria to Turkey with their parents with the help of people smugglers. Abdul has Spinal Muscular Atrophy

and uses a wheelchair.  After spending time in refugee camps, the family was selected by the UNHCR to join Britain’s Vulnerable People’s Relocation Scheme, and they were allocated a home in Newport, South Wales. Now the children need to acclimatize to life in a Welsh school, and the parents need to navigate their way around a whole new culture. 

Omarfled Syria on his own when he was 16 years old, hoping to reach Cardiff to join his older brother, who had himself fled Syria 2 years before. Having crossed to Greece by boat, Omar paid traffickers to get him across Eastern Europe to the Channel, where he hid in the back of a lorry to get to the UK.  He fears for his family in Syria, still living in an area that faces frequent bombing and fighting.  Just as worrying is whether or not he’ll be granted refugee status and be allowed to remain in the UK.

Mariam was just 14 she was targeted by the Islamist group, Al Shabaab for allegedly touching a man’s hand.  She nearly drowned trying to reach Europe and is now anxiously waiting to hear if she has been granted asylum. 

Sisters Ma’ab and Malaz fled Sudan with their mother, leaving their father and two other sisters behind, in fear for the lives.  They are desperately hoping they will be able to bring the rest of the family to the safety of the UK. 

How do we help young refugees?


Refugees and asylum-seekers who reach the UK under the age of 18 are quickly brought into the care of Local Authorities around the country.  Each Local Authority decides whether they are willing to receive refugees and asylum-seekers, and if so, how many.  Wales, along with Scotland, has been in the vanguard of welcoming asylum-seekers, with every local authority in the Principality agreeing to receive some. Local Authority social workers and other support workers who look after the unaccompanied young refugees and asylum-seekers often have to manage cases of severe stress and trauma in the young people, as well as trying to help them find medical treatment, education and housing, as well as trying to help them integrate into the local community. 

Many refugees and asylum-seekers arrive in the UK with almost nothing, and Local Authorities often struggle with cuts to their own budgets, although they receive extra money from the government to help care for them.  In many cases, it is left to organisations like the Refugee Council, Citizens UK, the Red Cross, and countless volunteer and charitable groups up and down the country, to provide a safe haven for these people in need, as well as some of their most basic needs, such as food and clothing.

Press Coverage


Info about the film-makers 

Ludo Graham filmed and directed Britain’s Refugee Children. He has made a wide variety of documentaries, from the ground-breaking observational series Paddington Green to the first series of The Choir with Gareth Malone, for which he won a BAFTA for Best Feature in 2006. 

Keira Malik produced Britain’s Refugee Children, having previously worked on True Vision’s films for BBC Children in Need, Prison, My Parents and Me, C4 BAFTA nominated Catching A Killer: The Search for Natalie Hemming and BBC Three’s Clean Eatings Dirty Secrets.

Ludo on BBC Radio Wales

Ludo on Talk Radio

Background information

What is the difference between refugees and asylum-seekers?


A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

More than half of all refugees worldwide come from just three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.

More information can be found here

In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.

Asylum Seeker

A person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded.

Refused asylum seeker

A person whose asylum application has been unsuccessful and who has no other claim for protection awaiting a decision. Some refused asylum seekers voluntarily return home, others are forcibly returned and for some it is not safe or practical for them to return until conditions in their country change.

Economic migrant

Someone who has moved to another country to work. Refugees are not economic migrants.

More information can be found here

Who decides if refugees and asylum-seekers can stay in the UK?

The Home Office has the final say in deciding whether or not refugees and other asylum-seekers are allowed to remain in the UK. Once someone has made a claim for asylum in the UK, they are protected from being removed from the country while they are awaiting a decision from the Home Office.

More information on claiming asylum in the UK can be found here

How long can refugees stay in the UK after receiving asylum?

If protection is granted on human rights grounds, the applicant usually gets Humanitarian Protection. This status is also initially granted for five years and subject to review.

Once a person is granted protection in the UK, they have the right to work, claim benefits and be re-united with their spouse and children (under 18). However, a child under the age of 18 who is recognised as a refugee does not have the same right to be joined by their parents or brothers/sisters.

More information can be found here