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New project to examine the impact of COVID-19 on young unaccompanied asylum-seekers

21 January 2021

A new collaborative research project between the University of Liverpool, UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and the University of Southampton has received funding to explore how the pandemic has affected young unaccompanied asylum-seekers in England legally and socially.

Teenage girl sat alone

Over £283,000 was awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.

The pandemic has caused disruption to asylum processes and welfare support services over the past year, and the post-Brexit legal environment may further affect the rights available to child migrants in the UK. This could see the rights of many teenagers close to adulthood disappearing while still waiting to be granted asylum.

The interdisciplinary project will provide evidence of how the asylum-seekers’ legal, welfare and civil society representatives are responding to delays in front line services, and suggest concrete legal, policy and practice proposals to ensure their rights and welfare are restored and upheld.

The eighteen-month project will see the academics work with a group of unaccompanied young asylum seekers as co-researchers, accessed through and supported by the Albanian-support charity, Shpresa Programme. It will also reveal the extent to which COVID-19 compounds young unaccompanied asylum seekers’ exposure to risks such as criminal and sexual exploitation and poor mental health.

The Principal Investigator is University of Liverpool’s Professor Helen Stalford, director of the European Children’s Rights Unit within the School of Law and Social Justice. Co-Investigators are Dr Elaine Chase, Associate Professor in Education, Health and International Development at the IOE; Dr Ingi Iusmen, Associate Professor in Governance and Policy; and Dr Jana Kreppner, Associate Professor in Developmental Psychopathology; both at the University of Southampton.

Dr Elaine Chase said: “This is a unique opportunity to capture how COVID-19 directly impacts unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people’s access to timely legal justice and welfare support. My role will involve working directly with a team of unaccompanied young people as core members of the research team, enabling us to focus on what matters most to them and ensuring that policy and practice recommendations are in keeping with their priorities.” 

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