Unseen, unreported, unprotected: bringing Asylum Seekers and Refugees into the Missing and Child Sexual Exploitation Agendas
(by Stela Stansfield and Chinyere Ajayi)
Missing Children Publication Hub
Unaccompanied Migrant Children
Organization: The Children's Soceity
Country: United Kingdom
Apart from cases of identified trafficked of unaccompanied minors, Refugees and Asylum Seekers do not often feature in local Missing figures. Similarly, they are not often referred to specialist Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) teams. Nevertheless, they do sometimes feature as perpetrators or suspects of CSE. In addition, agencies and departments responding to missing children and CSE tend to operate in isolation from those processing and supporting Asylum Seekers and Refugees which increases the variation in safeguarding priorities and approaches. In Lancashire (UK) The Children’s Society has worked with children missing from home since 2003 and with Refugees and Asylum Seekers since 2008. Through this work, practitioners raised concerns about the ‘invisibility’ of children missing within this community and their increased vulnerability to CSE. Anecdotal evidence has been gathered of children going missing but not reported to the police or any other services. Similarly, cases were identified of children who were being exploited but not known to services. Negative experiences and perceptions many Refugees and Asylum Seekers have of statutory services compounded by trauma, fear of affecting legal status often hinder reporting, disclosures and effective safeguarding interventions. Moreover, differences in cultural understanding of risk, low income and poverty further increase the risk of children going missing and being subjected to exploitation: sexual or other. The lack of understanding by some professionals of cultural aspects and the level of trauma experienced contributes towards poor service and lack of appropriate responses which is exacerbated by individuals being frequently moved around the country. This paper explores a new development in Lancashire that brings together the expertise of both teams enabling a holistic, person-centered and culturally competent approach. With emphasis on prevention it aims to build foundations for more integrated and efficient safeguarding responses. This new model for integrated working with this un-reached group aims to effect change both at operational and strategic levels.
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