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16th April 2024

Presentation to the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium

Maria Wright
Maria Wright
Senior Associate

I was really pleased to be invited to present my doctoral research to the Refugee and Migrant Children's Consortium (RMCC) this week.

The RMCC is a group of representatives from various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who work collaboratively to ensure the rights and needs of refugee and migrant children are promoted, respected and met in accordance with the relevant domestic, regional and international standards.

My doctoral research examined how the law operates to protect children with international connections. I analysed a sample of 100 care cases heard across the country, looking at how the international issues arose and were dealt with by courts and local authorities. 

I found that in the cases, there was often a micro-focus on law and procedure, which had the potential to hinder an individualised approach to supporting children involved in care proceedings with an international element.  

Decisions were made about children with international connections which had far-reaching and potentially damaging consequences - these were decisions led by ideas of legal compliance rather than a social work imperative to meet the individual child's best interests. 

I suggested that the 1996 Hague Child Protection Convention could be used to fuller effect to support children with international connections, rather than being seen as an instrument which needs to be ‘complied’ with. 

Children with international connections, particularly those who have experienced migration, may have additional vulnerabilities which need to be addressed in a focused and individualised way in family court proceedings.  

The children that the RMCC members encounter may have experienced significant trauma associated with their journeys to the UK; trauma which may be compounded by the way the state responds to their care. 

The proposal to form a Unified Court for Migrant Children may go some way to address this issue - a ‘one-stop shop’ dealing with children's immigration and family law issues, as well as any criminal proceedings and issues around trafficking. 

It is hoped that a court of this nature would have the necessary expertise to deal with the specific vulnerabilities of migrant children, avoiding the need for children and young people to have to tell their stories repeatedly to different professionals, and ensuring that all state agencies are able to take a joined-up approach to their care and protection. 

 

Children with international connections, particularly those who have experienced migration, may have additional vulnerabilities which need considered in a focussed and individualised way in family court proceedings.