Landing in Dover: the immigration process undergone by unaccompanied children arriving in Kent

Document type
Matthews, Adrian
Office of the Children's Commissioner
Date of publication
1 January 2012
Children and Young People, Minority Groups
Social welfare
Material type

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This report follows on from the Children’s Commissioner’s earlier report Landing in Kent. It focuses on immigration procedures to which unaccompanied children arriving in Kent are subject between their first encounter with the authorities and the time they are placed in the care of Kent County Council children’s social care services. Unaccompanied children are held under detention powers on, and immediately after, their arrival. Government policy is that unaccompanied children should only be detained in the most exceptional circumstances and only while arrangements for their care and safety are made.

The report finds that children are not currently being held for the ‘shortest appropriate period of time’. Rather they are detained whilst significant interviews that will inevitably bear on their prospects of being granted permission to stay in the UK are conducted. Often the local authority is only informed of the child’s arrival several hours after initial detention and well into the interviewing process. The report concludes that interviewing children in depth immediately on arrival is unnecessary and not in their best interests and should be reconsidered. Interviewing, beyond the gathering of basic identity data, should be postponed until after a child has had a period of some days (or longer if deemed necessary by a childcare professional) to recover from their journey, and so that they have the opportunity to instruct a legal representative.

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