Child asylum and immigration

All children and young people who live in England have the same rights under the UNCRC. This includes children who are subject to immigration control because they are not UK citizens or do not have settled status. These children can be at greater risk of having their rights infringed than other children because they lack the protection of a state and may have arrived in the UK unaccompanied by parents or carers. In 2014, 1861 separated children claimed ayslum in the UK seeking protection and safety.

We aim to influence decisions and policies which have an impact on children who are not UK citizens. We work together with children and young people to ensure everything we do reflects their voices and can have the greatest impact on their lives. Our work concentrates on all issues related to this group of children, but has particular focus on child trafficking, age assessment, detention and seperation from parents or guardians.

Our priorities

  • Age assessment

We will be investigating young people who have been age assessed by a local authority. We will feed back on the draft of practice guidance on age assessment for social workers being developed by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

  • Trafficked children

We will be looking at the treatment of Vietnamese young people trafficked for criminal exploitation and prosecuted for crimes linked to their exploitation.

  • Family Migration Rules

We will be considering the effects on children of being separated from a parent because of the Family Migration Rules introduced in 2012

  • Unaccompanied children refused asylum

We will be actively pursuing the recommendations of What’s Going to Happen Tomorrow- Unaccompanied Children Refused Asylum. Read the recommendations here.

Our impact

  • Removal from the UK

We improved the way children and young people are treated when they are due to be removed from the UK, including uncovering the 'Gentleman's Agreement' between the UK and France.

  • Detention

The work we produced following visits to Yarl's Wood contributed towards the closure of its family detention centre.

  • Age assessment

We challenged the ways in which children and young people’s age is assessed by the authorities when it is not known to ensure the assessments are fair. We have bought all interested parties together to map out and develop a new age assessment process.

  • Trafficked children

We changed policy and practice regarding the prosecution of children (largely Vietnamese boys) who are found to be working in cannabis factories.

  • Children and young people's experiences

We published reports on children’s experiences of the asylum and immigration system.

  • Legal challenges

We contributed to a number of ground-breaking and successful legal challenges. We recommended that children have access to good quality legal advice and the Department for Education has drafted specific statutory guidance for the care of unaccompanied and trafficked children


Our work on immigration and asylum has particular focus and relevance to the following Articles of the UNCRC: 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 20, 22, 28, 32, 35, 36, 37 and 39.

Find out more about the UNCRC.

Learn more about our work on asylum and immigration...

Below are some questions about asylum and immigration. You can find more questions and information on our Get Advice pages.

Questions about Child asylum and immigration

I’m seeking asylum, where can I go for help?

If you are an unaccompanied child you should be looked after by the local authority children’s services. They must look after children who haven’t got a parent with them to look after them.

I’m a care leaver and I have an immigration claim. Who can help me?

The Children’s panel at the Refugee Council runs an advice service for children, or adults supporting separated children

I arrived in this country on my own without my parents and I’m about to turn 18. What will happen now?

This will depend on what immigration status you have been given. Either of the two organisations below will be able to advise you.

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