current affairs

Should the UK accept unaccompanied refugee children?

Last week the UK government agreed to give sanctuary to an unspecified number of unaccompanied children to the UK. 

Helping is the best thing

These children have escaped from the most traumatic of situations, possibly orphaned, alone in the world with nowhere safe to return to. Returning them to Syria, Iraq etc will undoubtedly lead to them being recruited, enslaved or butchered by IS. Leaving them to stay in refugee camps could stunt their emotional, physical and educational development. Surely the UK government is doing the best thing, ensuring that, where possible, all children get the best start possible in life.

Can the UK cope?

However, in the UK there were 69,540 children in the care of local authorities on 31st March 2015, up from 68,800 in 2014, and residential care can cost over £2,000 a week per child. A huge amount to an already over stretched service.

These children will often have complex emotional needs, many having witnessed death and destruction on an incalculable level, is the UK set up for this with the amount of strain already on our mental health services? Language barriers and the educational needs will also put an additional strain on the system. Not only that, but children are often placed in the most deprived areas of the country exacerbating the situation.

There is also concern over the definition of children. We think of the innocents, the toddlers, the Aylan Kurdi’s of this tragedy, when it more likely to be 15, 16 year old boys with intensely difficult trauma issues to manage, that the UK has not yet adequately prepared for. There is also the chance that, hearing the UK will accept unaccompanied children, desperate parents will be encouraged to abandon their children in the hope that they will be granted sanctuary.

Kettle editors Fiona Carty and Olivia Whaley gave their opinions.

Fiona Carty

Of course the UK should accept these children, I cannot image the horrors that some of them have encountered. My worry is that the system may not be able to provide the support needed to ensure that they get the care to adapt and move on; if they can be placed in homes of families from the same area, then the strain may be reduced, and the stress of the language and cultural barrier lessened but obviously that is incredibly idealistic. This whole crisis is a very complex issue, and unfortunately people are looking for simple answers to the immediate problems leaving mostly the innocent to bear the brunt. 

Olivia Whaley

I strongly believe that any child should have an equal start to the life, despite their background. I feel that as humans, we should be sympathetic to those who have no option but to flee their country in the hope to make a better life for themselves. This government plan however does worry me, as I am concerned that the many underprivileged UK children will be overlooked. Another concern I have is that we may bite off more than we can chew and result in not having the funds etc to give the refugee children everything they deserve.

The issue is undoubtedly complex, but regardless of the worries over the type of children we might take in and what it may or may not encourage their parents to do, the fact that parents would even consider abandoning their children in the hope that they might be granted sanctuary in a country they have no real experience of, just goes to show how bleak the situation is, how much better the UK must be in comparison and how important UK assistance is.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments below.