On the Children and Family Panel, as part of the UNCRC Framework project, we have an asylum-seeking family who have shared their experiences of living in Scotland. They explain that although they have experienced examples of good practice, they also have questions on whether their children’s human rights are fully being met due to their status.
The family have spoken of many good experiences of public services and professionals in Scotland, which is great to know there is good practice happening:
“We are quite impressed with the public service system in Scotland. Free school meals are a big advantage for families, who do not have enough food at home. They also arrange school uniforms for each and every child in Scotland. They start recently free travel in Scotland for children under the age of 22, which is helpful”.
The family also share examples of where they see all children being treated fairly:
“I am sharing with you one practical experience of children’s rights, “The right to be treated fairly”. We are impressed with this fair treatment everywhere with the Asian ethnic kids, where especially at Christmas, they provide gifts to all children equally”.
However, this good practice is not being delivered across all services, and the family have found this difficult, particularly due to the stigma associated with being an asylum seeker:
“I am glad to say my kids and husband respect me but I feel bad sometimes people are not happy with our status. Sometimes I felt in buses and public places they feel we are useless especially as we are not allowed to work. It’s shameful for me!”
“Some people are not understanding the difference between the asylum kids and the normal resident kids. Some are thinking they are poorer than others. I need them to know about kids’ rights and equality”.
From this family, the 11-year-old MCP (Member of Children’s Parliament) discussed their experiences:
“I have been here in Glasgow since 2019, I am 11 years old and I am studying in Primary 7. My father does not have the right to work and he is not allowed driving which affects our family in harsh weather. We can not travel to other countries”
I would like to know why we have limited rights than British citizen kids. Because of my status, I can’t afford holiday, travel, expensive school trips or join clubs. I feel it is discriminatory to me and my little sister.”
They make the point, that due to their status, their parents are unable to work and have limited funds, and therefore have limited opportunities compared to their peers, including having holidays, travelling, going on school trips and even joining clubs.
One key challenge highlighted is the wider issue of asylum seekers having limited access to funds. In the State of Children’s Rights Report, recommendation 81 states: “UK Government should ensure children and their families are not subject to a status of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)” ) to ensure that children aren’t unfairly affected. The lack of recourse to public funds and the inability to work during an asylum claim can negatively impact children accessing their human rights, including: “Children have the rights to be with friends and join clubs” (Article 15) and “Children have the right to play and relax” (Article 31). Support systems, including the education systems, can be inadvertently discriminatory to children from families that are less well off, especially asylum-seeking families. When schools organise trips, have they considered the affordability? How can they ensure support is available to families who cannot afford trips, so their children have the same equal access and opportunities?
These experiences highlight how important it is to realise children’s human rights for ALL children, including asylum seekers. Children have the right to protection from discrimination, and no child should be treated differently due to their background, however the family have stated that they feel like they are treated differently. All professionals, including those who work directly with children such as teachers, and those who don’t always work directly with children such as bus drivers (which the family identified) need to not only take into account and respect the different cultural backgrounds of all children, and celebrate these differences, but ensure others are also not discriminating against children.
Accessing services for asylum seeking families can be discriminatory due to the deterrents of UK immigration law. For example, the limited funding and prescribed accommodation for asylum seekers can negatively impact their children’s ability to access their rights. Asylum seekers can access the NHS, education, housing services etc, but the lack of funding limit this access and the quality of service. Recommendation 80 in Together’s State of Children’s Rights 2022 report states that more needs to be done by the Scottish Government to ensure that Children’s Human Rights are fully realised for asylum seeking children:
“Scottish Government should mitigate against the impact of the hostile environment, ensuring children and families subject to immigration control are not discriminated against when accessing services, including appropriate housing, healthcare, education and employment and have access to appropriate practical, emotional and medical support”.
Children’s human rights should not be impacted by a child’s status or cultural background, as rights are inalienable, meaning that no one can give or take away anyone’s rights. Professionals can play a key role in realising this, they can assist the family in knowing their human rights and ensuring the rights of their children are fulfilled, and their dignity not taken away by, for example, excluding them from school trips. We are grateful to the panel members for sharing their personal story. Through their contributions, and other panel members’ as well, we have learned about the impact of current practice on children and how we can make it a better experience for them. Their inputs have informed the development of the Skills and Knowledge Framework and the Training Plan directly.
Together Scotland (2022) State of Children’s Rights in Scotland. Available: https://www.togetherscotland.org.uk/media/3266/socrr23_final.pdf (Accessed 4 September 2023).