Young refugees and asylum seekers are often unable to receive sufficient education and support. Those that have fled war, persecution and bereavement to seek refuge in Europe have sacrificed their learning to find opportunities for a better life, at a time when many people their age are qualifying for careers.
Many of these young people arriving in the UK will have experienced or witnessed traumatic events and may not be able to cope mentally with general day to day life, let alone understand how to navigate the complex systems in which they now find themselves. Imagine being 16 years old, having left your family behind on a perilous journey, to then pick up your education where you left off, in a new country and in a different language, whilst the danger of being sent back home is a real possibility.
3175 unaccompanied young people applied for asylum in Britain in 2016, mostly aged 14-17. Including those that made it of their own volition, just 31% were granted refugee status. Instead of security and peace of mind, the majority are allowed only short term leave to remain, giving them until they reach 17 and a half before their cases are re-evaluated and the application process starts again.
This long period of uncertainty on top of such extreme circumstance is detrimental to their physical, psychological and social wellbeing and as a result, they suffer social exclusion and can become disaffected with life in the UK. We don’t want to see this happen to anybody when we know it doesn’t have to. We’ve learned that when somebody is there to offer stability and regular 1-1 support during this difficult time, it can transform a young person’s attitude from that of frustration and despair to optimism and hope. We pride ourselves in providing holistic and tailored support as we understand that everyone has different histories, needs and aspirations for the future.
Despite the complex challenges they have faced, it is education that remains their primary focus. Learning new skills and knowledge provides the hope of a better life and future prospects for them and their families. They are determined to access and make the most of this opportunity and we are determined to support them in doing so.
However, many young people wishing to return to education encounter a series of obstacles when trying to enroll. Many cannot afford it as they are not entitled to a student loan to pay for tuition. Misunderstandings on the part of educational institutes about who can access higher and further education can also prevent their studying. Even if a young person is eligible for funding there are often practical difficulties, such as evidencing their right to study. It is complicated further by the fact that different colleges and universities have varying practices and requirements.
Hope for the young directly supports young people to navigate these obstacles, and through our work we aim to challenge the systemic and practical barriers to their education and well-being. Our Education Fund and Mentoring Project supports individuals to overcome adversity and helps to challenge common educational practices that make it so difficult for young asylum-seekers and refugees to access learning opportunities, rebuild their lives, and focus on the positive possibilities of the future.