Letter to the Chairman submitted by Katherine
Hill, Parliamentary Adviser, The Children's Society
At the recent oral evidence session held as
part of the Looked After Children Inquiry, Lisa Nandy from the
Refugee Children's Consortium undertook to write to the Committee
members on a number of points. I am now writing on her behalf
with this information.
Before addressing the specific questions posed
by the Committee it is important to make a general comment that
the availability of data on unaccompanied children is on the whole
There are no official national figures for the
total number of refugee children in school in the UK. To date,
the only estimates have come from school refugee surveys and these
include unaccompanied children and children in families.
In 2003, the Refugee Council estimated that
there were 98, 929 refugee children in UK schools, of which about
65% were in London. (Rutter, J. Refugee children and social
policy. Open University Press, 2005).
In July 2001 the Refugee Council estimated that
there were at least 2,100 refugee children out of school in Greater
London (Refugee Council, Daring to Dream, Raising the achievement
of 14-16 year old asylum seeking and refugee children and young
These figures do not exist on a national basis
but are in some instances available at local authority level.
One example for illustrative purposes is Hillingdon, which states
that 14% of its UASC (unaccompanied asylum seeking children) care
leavers go on to higher education. (London Borough of Hillingdon,
Retrospective Equality Impact Assessment (EIA), 2008, http://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/media/pdf/e/8/reia__childrenfamilies2008.pdf,
Again national figures are not collected. However,
the crime reduction charity Nacro has published an informative
fact sheet Youth Crime briefing: Refugee and asylum seeking
from which the information below is summarised.
Contrary to common perceptions, there is a lack
of evidence to suggest that children who are asylum seekers or
refugees commit offences at a higher rate than the general population.
In general, there is evidence that suggests that refugees and
asylum seekers with children are concerned about the potentially
harmful influence of the wider population who may be viewed as
lacking discipline and supervision. See for example research findings
in The Children's Society report Safeguarding and promoting
the welfare of children in the African refugee community in Newcastle
published in 2006 available at www.thechildrenssociety.org.uk.
There are some categories of offending that
are more likely to apply such as documentation, illegal working
and illegal entry. Some may not understand domestic law, for example
with regard to the use of illegal drugs. A few are susceptible
to gang related activities and to offending through economic necessity.
See for example, Young refugees and asylum seekers in Greater
London: vulnerability to problematic drug use, Greater London
Authority, 2004, available at www.london.gov.uk. Those who are
susceptible to exploitation may have to commit offences under
ECPAT UK's report Missing Out (2007) identified
80 suspected or confirmed child trafficking victims, 60% of whom
had gone missing from local authority care.