Young children who arrive in Britain as unaccompanied asylum seekers should get first place in the queue for schools and healthcare, a High Court judge declared yesterday.
He called on social workers to make sure that children who arrive to claim asylum without their parents or anyone else to look after them should have priority in getting medical care or NHS therapy.
Such children should also have priority for places in oversubscribed schools, Mr Justice Peter Jackson said.
The judge set out the need to give young unaccompanied asylum seekers special treatment in the NHS and the education system in a test case involving two young Afghan boys, aged nine and 10.
The two boys, identified only as J and T, are thought to come from North West Afghanistan, and arrived in the North West of England a year and four months after leaving the country.
Child migrants who arrive unaccompanied in the UK should take priority for NHS treatment and oversubscribed school places, a High Court judge has ruled. File image used
Mr Justice Jackson said that social workers were right in their case to apply for a court care order to give an unnamed local council full powers to act in place of their parents.
Older children arriving as unaccompanied asylum seekers might be given housing under less sweeping court orders, the judge said in the family court in Liverpool.
The story of the two boys – the older is thought to be the uncle of the younger was said to be ‘unusual but not, sadly unprecedented.’
‘It is thought that in April 2016 the children were somehow sent out of Afghanistan, whether by their mothers or another family member is not known,’ Mr Justice Jackson said.
‘In some way they crossed Asia and the Middle East and Europe and ended up in the refugee camp in Calais known as the Jungle on 18 August 2016, having travelled a long distance with other refugees by lorry.
‘It appears that these children lived together in a tent without any adult being responsible for them for about four and a half months.
‘The next that is known is that they arrived on 18 August in the North West, alone but well-dressed.’
It was not possible to investigate the boys’ home because of war conditions, the judge added.
They are currently living with a Pakistani foster family with whom they have a cultural background in common. However the boys speak a different language, and their carers were anxious, he added.
Justice Peter Jackson (picture) set out the need to give young unaccompanied asylum seekers special treatment in the NHS and the education system in a test case involving two young Afghan boys, aged nine and 10.
The children, the judge said, were traumatised, missed their mothers, and were trying to adapt to an alien world.
Last month one was taken to hospital with convulsions thought to be a result of intense anxiety.
The judge ruled that the boys’ future should be governed by a care order rather than the alternative ‘Section 20’ order which gives them free housing but means their council would have much less sweeping power over their lives.
Among advantages of a care order, he said, are that ‘the children would have priority in relation to the obtaining of speciality therapy or medical care.’
Mr Justice Peter Jackson added that ‘they would undoubtedly be a first call on the local authority’s resources if subject to a care order, and, depending on the education legislation, qualify for priority in the allocation of educational resources.’
Social workers would also be required to pursue the children’s asylum application.
Under 2006 regulations councils must give priority for places at oversubscribed schools to children who are ‘looked after’ by their social workers.
Department of Health rules last updated in 2015 require medical staff to promote the interests of children in care.
The judge said councils must take the case of each child on its merits but ‘it will easily be seen that the advantages of a care order may particularly apply to younger children or to children with unusual or particular needs.’
Last year 3,290 unaccompanied children claimed asylum in Britain, 754 of them from Afghanistan. More than six out of 10 claimed to be 16 or 17 – the age group believed to include a high proportion of older people falsely saying they are aged under 18.
Only seven in 100 unaccompanied asylum seeker children were thought to be aged under 14.