While the world watches Trump, the UK harbours its own shameful secret about detaining children

Barbed wire and a security camera
Support us and go ad-free

20 June is World Refugee Day. There has been global outrage about the Trump administration’s horrific treatment of child immigrants in the US. But the UK harbours shameful secrets in its treatment of children seeking refuge and asylum too.

The truth

The most recent government migration statistics [pdf] cover the period up until May 2018. And yet although the UK government claims it is “committed to supporting and caring for asylum-seeking and refugee children”, its record seems questionable. The UK’s Refugee Council issued 20 facts about refugees and asylum seekers that shakes some of the government’s claims to the core.

Because the Refugee Council found that, despite a government promise in 2010 to end child immigrant detention:

In the twelve months up to March 2018, 58 children were locked up in immigration detention

According to the Refugee Council, 40% of children arriving on their own were granted asylum up to March 2018. But:

many separated children are granted short term leave to remain which expires after 2.5 years; leaving them anxious about their futures.

As UNICEF explained [pdf, p3], these are children:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

whose homes have been destroyed, who are threatened with violence, who are at risk of being forcibly recruited to fight in wars, who have lost contact with their parents, and children who have seen their previous way of life swept away are facing almost insurmountable barriers to reunite with family members waiting for them across the world – including here in the UK.

Refugee crisis

There is a refugee crisis in Europe. As UNICEF stated:

There are more child refugees in Europe than at any point since the end of the second world war. As children flee from war and disaster, borders across Europe are closing and making their journeys even more dangerous and difficult.

According to the Home Office, the UK has:

granted asylum or another form of leave to almost 9,000 children and more than 49,000 children since 2010.

But these figures are at odds with the sheer number of children seeking safety in the midst of this crisis. And according to information supplied by the Refugee Council, they also hide a disturbing truth about how those children are treated in the UK.


In May 2018, Amnesty International called on the home secretary to end restrictive rules for child refugees because:

the fact remains that many refugees are not able to pass the current restrictive rules and complicated process which is difficult to navigate without legal support. Child refugees have no right to reunite with their loved ones. Neither do siblings. Others will struggle to gather the necessary paperwork or will not be able to afford legal help

But the issues also run far deeper too. According to a UNICEF report [pdf, p3]:

  • The UK’s “rules on refugee family reunion only recognise parents as family”. So child refugees can’t join other relatives who could offer them care and protection.
  • The lengthy, bureaucratic UK system often forces children towards greater danger and traffickers. But “every 30 minutes a child is trafficked or exploited on the Central Mediterranean journey to Europe”.
  • “unlike almost every other EU country, the UK has opted out [pdf, p5]  of the relocation scheme for refugees in Europe”.

By the government’s own admission, it will help 480 children under the Dubs Amendment (section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016). According to charity Help Refugees, there are “currently 95,000 unaccompanied refugee children living in Europe”.


The UK is also the only country that holds those seeking refuge in the UK indefinitely:

The Foreign Office acknowledged Refugee Day:

But its claim stands at odds with the evidence. The treatment of children in the US is utterly abhorrent. But if we look closer to home, our own government also has shameful secrets. And it must be held to account for its disgusting treatment of some of the most vulnerable children in the world.

Get Involved!

– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.

Featured image via Pexels

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed