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Chapter Three: Care and Protection of Children

Aida Alayarian Karnac Books ePub

In recent years, one of the incidents that the UK public was horrified to learn of was the heart-breaking abduction of young April Jones. As this tragedy gripped national press networks, the protection of children has justifiably come to the forefront. Reflecting and comparing the two horrific acts of child abuse and neglect: the abduction of April Jones and the untimely death of Mrs G and her baby, it is shocking that the incident of Mrs G and her baby failed to take hold of national attention in the same way the abduction of April Jones quite rightly did. It is only when one can consider the media's portrayal of these two unbearable calamities that we are able to distinguish a readily overlooked subliminal discourse of race and social class unfolding, dismissive of egregious and flagrant violations of the human rights of refugee and asylum-seeking communities. Human rights are not just for some, all humans have an inalienable entitlement to all rights regardless of race, culture, class, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, and economic power. Many young asylum seekers and refugee families face multiple social problems including difficulties making an asylum application, finding a proper solicitor, living in poor housing, poverty, difficulty accessing and receiving benefits, and lack of knowledge about services. Some parents we serve feel that their social difficulties are preventing them from being good parents. Specifically depression amongst mothers, caused by social distress and isolation, increases the worry for their children as they are aware that they are not being emotionally there for their children, or their stress causes them to be emotionally absent. In their therapy many asylum seekers express a deep feeling of sadness and isolation, acutely feeling the loss of support networks from their families or extended families, and being isolated due to lack of English language skills, and in some cases a fear of going out in some parts of London or outside London because of the racial harassment and lack of contact with their community. These isolated mothers feel very uncomfortable leaving their young children at child minders or in a nursery from outside their community, especially in a community where no one speaks their home language. The majority of parents we see at the Refugee Therapy Centre are usually unaware of the low cost or free services for young children, such as libraries or toy libraries, or play groups or play sessions in the community centres, sport centres or schools, they are not even aware of the after school clubs or homework clubs for older children at school. All of this highlights the lack of early psycho-social intervention or provision and dissemination of information for asylum-seeking young families, especially where they may have direct experience of racial harassment in the form of being bullied at school or when they change schools or the neighbourhood they live in. Some parents who reported not being able to cope or being violent physically or verbally are quite worried about their parenting skills and that is why they ask for help from us. They are also extremely worried about how social workers and social services perceive their parenting skills. Some parents also expressed worry about teachers because they are aware of the cultural differences of childhood, specifically their understanding of physical punishment as an acceptable form of discipline which may not be shared by a teacher. They are very concerned when child protection issues are raised with them and it is proposed that they get help and a proper assessment. They express a great fear that social workers will accuse them of physical abuse or neglect and take their children away, and they need great support and encouragement to be able to use resources from social services available to them when they are not able to cope. One common fear amongst almost all different cultural backgrounds is separation from their children and lack of trust. Some asylum-seeking families are able to use and get in touch with the refugee community organisations, but they may not live close enough to these organisations to get support and some asylum seekers and refugees do not wish to contact refugee community organisations they do not know personally and they can't trust. Some female clients also indicate that community organisations can be very much male dominated and it is quite unlikely they would get involved in the woman's needs or issues, such as child care or a woman's wish to improve her language. This is especially the case in some communities such as Somalian, Eritrean, and Kurdish communities. Psychological intervention can play an important role in meeting the needs of children and families of refugees and asylum seekers. Combating social exclusion and preventing further stress results in healthy development for children of refugees and further decreases youngsters acting out their aggression in the community, or seeking to join radical groups. Some parents sometimes express concern that their children lose their language and culture of their home country. They are concerned that their children will grow up with very different values to their own and their families and become alienated from their parents as a result. There is a reality that supports this fear as the younger generation of children learn English very quickly in comparison to their parents. This can create a fear in the parents of the children losing the old culture. On the other hand it is also likely that the parents will use their young children as interpreters and translators without recognising that the level of understanding that their child has of the English Language is still only at the level that the child has reached developmentally in their own language and culture. The child's level is not an adult level of language and that in itself can create further trauma to children and young people. As discussed before, with more under-fives than in the general population, and also young children over five and adolescents, refugees and asylum seekers families, especially some of the newcomers, may have a greater need for earlier provision of service. This in itself indicates that it is not good practice to put refugee children in an equal position to the general or indigenous population. The lack of training and courses on refugee's issues, language, working with interpreters, and anti-discriminatory practice, prevents professionals from meeting the refugee children's healthcare and emotional needs and it prevents these children and families from using the healthcare professionals within the community during the early years. Taking care of and protecting the welfare and rights of children should be the primary concern of all professionals involved in the care of children, including staff working within the UK Border Agency and local authorities. Although discussion in this book focuses on refugee children, the principles and practices described apply to all migrant children. The UK Border Agency frequently has poor and inconsistent decision-making in regards to children. Children and their carers report that in their experiences the officials are harsh and insensitive towards refugee children. Having said that, this book's aim is not to criticise any agency, but is intended to look at issues in a constructive and informative method, to share techniques and tactics to challenge the deficiencies in the UK asylum process, and aid those involved in the protection of the welfare of children to consider their practices to see how they can be improved and developed in order to ensure that they play their part.

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APPENDIX I: Maps of 1915 Armenian genocide

Aida Alayarian Karnac Books ePub
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Chapter Six: The European Convention on Human Rights

Aida Alayarian Karnac Books ePub

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states that, “No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (1950a). Under Article 3 a person can make a claim for protection based directly on Article 3 of ECHR as states are prohibited from returning a person to a country where they may suffer a violation of their rights.

Furthermore, Article 8 (1950b) of the ECHR states that: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” Article 8 issues may be raised as part of an asylum application, or in the context of an appeal against deportation or removal. Article 8 is a qualified rather than an absolute right and the second part of it sets out circumstances where authorities may interfere with the right. The Immigration Rules amendment in 2012 provides clarifications on the qualified nature of Article 8.

Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits states from penalising a refugee for illegal entry when the purpose of their entry is to claim asylum. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is particularly relevant as separated children are some of the most vulnerable people in society. The relevant article is Article 22 emphasising that:

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Chapter Eight: Socio-Psychological Factors and Institutional Support

Aida Alayarian Karnac Books ePub

This chapter will address socio-psychological factors and the influence of institutional support or opposition for refugee and asylum seekers. As it is discussed throughout the book, refugee and asylum seeker children may arrive traumatised and disorientated separated from their families, forced by persecution to leave their own countries and come to the UK. In the developmental process, appropriate support provision is extremely important in helping children of refugees and their carers while they are rebuilding their lives in the UK. Sadly, refugee families in Britain do not have equal access to the existing range of services and interventions, even though their need for such provision may be greater, proportional to the general population. Through the narratives shared by refugee and asylum seeker families, and our witnessing this experience during therapeutic intervention, we can recognise this inequality.

Some asylum seekers and children of refugees, young people and their families may also have special healthcare needs, specifically psychological needs, which must be addressed in order to prevent future serious mental health problems. Children of refugees and young people and in some case their parents or family members as their carers, have particular linguistic needs before they are able to take advantage of necessary services. With more under-fives than in the general population in some refugee communities (our statistics indicate the Somali and Afghan families), they may have a greater need for a new dimension of mental health, and psychosocial intervention and education. In such circumstances adult refugee parents are amongst the most vulnerable and are unlikely to take part in any education and go through the process of adaptation and resettlement. Indeed, suffering psychologically and not being able to cope can cause tremendous tension between different generations within the family. This is particularly true for many refugee mothers who have responsibility for their children after having lost their informal support networks and extended families, which itself can lead to stress and psychological difficulties.

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Chapter Three: Anxiety, Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress, and Dissociation

Alayarian, Aida Karnac Books ePub

In this chapter I focus on anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a warning signal that may present in the form of overwhelming emotions and feelings which give rise to a sense of unmanageable helplessness. In it, the threat may be perceived as arising from either external or internal sources and be the conscious response to a variety of powerful fantasies in the unconscious mind.

Anxiety's physical symptoms include butterflies in the stomach, a pounding heart, unpleasant sensations or a persistent sense of unease. Anxiety is certainly not just a product of irrational fears. If we look at the cases of anxiety in people that have encountered traumatic events, it is clear to see that their anxiety is often justified and in many cases it is existential. Some of the existential causes of anxiety in refugee and asylum seekers include: being in a new culture, struggling with a new language, not knowing what to do, not knowing the Home Office decision about immigration matters. Some of these are enough to make anyone anxious—in fact I would be more concerned if patients in such circumstances did not present anxiety. This type of anxiety is a normal reaction to a pressured and abnormal situation. Although individual fears may appear irrational, it is easy to see that the base of that fear is perfectly normal, rational, and to be expected.

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