Young refugees and asylum seekers who 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, saying goodbye to your family and embarking on a perilous journey across the world to find a place of safety and security. When you arrive you will attempt to 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.
2872 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in Britain in 2018, mostly aged 14-17. Including those that made it of their own volition, just 50% were granted refugee status and allowed to stay in the UK. Instead of security and peace of mind, the rest are allowed only short-term leave to remain, giving them until they reach 17 and a half before their cases are re-evaluated and they risk being returned to the country they have fled. This long period of uncertainty on top of such extreme circumstance is detrimental to their physical, psychological and social well-being and as a result, they suffer social exclusion and can become disaffected with life in the UK.
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. However, many young people wishing to return to education encounter a series of obstacles when trying to enrol.
Asylum-seekers in the UK are currently categorised as international students and must pay international student fees that can range between £8,000 – £28,000 per year. Those over 18 are not entitled to work and are provided a basic allowance of £37.75 to live off per week. Education, therefore, remains inaccessible to those who may have to wait many years for a decision from the Home Office. 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’s status makes them 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.
We’ve seen how a consistent lack of hope for the future can result in disastrous consequences. Without being able to work or study, isolation increases, and mental health deteriorates, which creates many further problems for society. We don’t want to see this happen because we know it doesn’t have to. We’ve learned that when somebody is there to offer stability and regular one-to-one 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. They are determined to access and make the most of their opportunities and we are determined to support them in doing so.
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 through financial and mentoring support. Our Education Fund and Mentoring Project support 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.