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Who is a person seeking asylum or a refugee?

A person seeking asylum is someone who has left their home country, as they are not safe there, and they have applied to live in another country.

A refugee is someone who has been given permission by the government to stay in the new country.

Children seeking asylum on their own, without an adult or family member, are known as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. When they arrive in the UK, they usually go into the care of the local authority and may live with foster carers. They become Looked After Children and have a Social Worker.

Why do people seek asylum?

People seeking asylum are looking for a place of safety, as their own country is not able to keep them safe. This may be due to several reasons, for example war, fighting, torture,  being treated badly and unfairly due to the person’s beliefs, ethnic or social group. Children seeking asylum may have seen their family tortured, their family members may have unexpectedly disappeared or they may be forced to fight as a child soldier. There may also be other reasons why a child has left their home country.

What emotional and mental health difficulties might someone experience?

Children seeking asylum are five times more likely than the general population to have a mental health difficulty. They are very vulnerable due to what has happened to them before they arrived, during their journey and after their arrival in a new country.

Children and young people seeking asylum may well have seen and experienced frightening things and they may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

They may experience a lot of anxiety for several reasons, for example, they may fear being sent back to their home country, they may still feel unsafe, they may have no family, friends or community and will be unfamiliar with the new country, and they often do not speak English.

It can be a very lonely time and the young person is likely to have experienced a lot of loss. They may be low in mood or depressed, and they may engage in self-harming behaviours.   They may also present with sleeping difficulties.

What Can CAMHS  to do help?

It can often be hard for children and young people seeking asylum to access mental health services due to obstacles, such as the language barrier, cultural differences, racism, their belief system and confusion. However, our CAMHS services are available to help. We will arrange an interpreter and work with the young person following their lead.

We can offer therapies, for example Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which help with trauma. However, the young person may need other support first to help them learn ways to cope with or manage strong feelings or other difficulties, or to help them spend time building up trust in the CAMHS worker.  We can also help link the young person up with other local community services, if this is what they want.

We also offer support to carers and professionals involved with the young person to help them think about how they can support the young person to cope with what has happened and provide the right care to help their young person develop.