Thousands of children who arrived in Britain alone, often following perilous journeys, are experiencing severe mental health issues due to “gaps in statutory support” provided to them, which is some cases has led them to take their own lives.

A letter to the home secretary from 45 NGOs – including Unicef, the Children’s Society and the NSPCC – expresses “extreme concern” about the rate of self-harm and suicide among the group.

The charities also warn that many unaccompanied minors are at severe risk of trafficking on arrival in the UK, but that a lack of one-to-one support means they are not adequately protected from exploitation. In some cases, unaccompanied minors who go missing from care are considered as immigration offenders, when in fact they have been lured into exploitation, they said.

The letter called for a scheme of “independent legal guardians”, which already exists in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and allocates each child an advocate who would be able to instruct solicitors on their behalf and represent their interests.


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