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Britain's Refugee Children

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Britain's Refugee Children

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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.