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Over the last 10 years the number of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide has doubled from 16 million in 2010 to 30.5 million by the end of 2020 (UNHCR, 2020). The top three countries of origin are Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan, all because of internal conflict (UNHCR, 2020) The UK Home office received 50,042 applications for asylum in 2021, of which 6,031 were dependents under 18, and 4,382 were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (Refugee Council, 2022).
Refugees are a vulnerable population with specific health needs that present unique challenges. Refugees are at risk of communicable diseases including TB, HIV and parasitaemia (Pavli & Maltezou, 2017). Refugees are at high risk of mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may have been victims of torture (Blackmore et al., 2020). Child specific issues include immunisation coverage, developmental assessment, and nutrition (Stevens, 2020).
These guidelines have been developed to aid clinicians in caring for child refugees and asylum seekers, whether they present with families or unaccompanied (UASC). These guidelines reflect the recently updated RCPCH guidance for care of Refugee and asylum seeking children and young people.
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A full physical examination is important, with particular attention to:
Information in other languages
Community Link Workers – see attached sheet for contact details CLW’s.
Barnados – Boloh helpline (0800 151 2605) providing advice, signposting and emotional support and 8 free sessions of therapy.
British Red Cross – offers emergency one-to-one support and casework, special services for children and families, and reuniting assistance. Can also help with food, toiletries and assistance accessing education and healthcare.
Govan Community Project – advice on applying for Home Office support, emergency accommodation, information on foodbanks, online English classes and online social groups.
Kids in Need of Defense – free expert legal help to undocumented children, young people and families.
Migrant Help – advice on how to claim asylum, applying for asylum support, and reporting problems.
Refuweegee – welcome packs
Scottish Refugee Council – an independent charity dedicated to supporting refugees in Scotland. Services include support for families, helpline, and an employability programme. The website also has a series of translated factsheets on accommodation, health rights and health information.
Resources for supporting children and young people and their families.
British Red Cross | Afghanistan – Information and support for people from Afghanistan settling into life in the UK. Resources translated into Dari and Pashto. Includes information on the Red Cross’ Family Tracing service, videos about life in the UK, and information on how to contact ARAP, the Afghan Relocation Scheme.
British Red Cross | Help for Ukrainian nationals – Information and support for people from Ukraine, including the family migration visa and the Ukrainian family scheme. Download ‘Advice for Ukrainians arriving in the UK’ and ‘How to talk to children about war’ in Ukrainian.
Doing What Matters in Times of Stress (who.int) – A free stress management guide for coping with adversity. The guide aims to equip people with practical skills to help cope with stress. It has been translated into 19 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Farsi, and French.
Mental Health and Psycho Social Support network | Caring for Children through Conflict and Displacement – Resource translated in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and German. Additional relevant resources translated in multiple languages in the resources section.
University of Manchester | Information for adults looking after a child or children through conflict and displacement – Two page leaflet developed based on the experience of displaced Syrian parents translated into Ukrainian, Russian, English, German and Polish
Beacon House | Talking to children about war and conflict (PDF) – Guidance for adults supporting a child or teen on how to respond to their reactions and questions.
Phoenix Australia | Helping a friend or family member after a disaster (PDF) – A factsheet with simple and practical advice for those providing support.
Asylum Seeker: a person who has lodged an application for protection under the Geneva convention (U.N.T.S, 1951) or Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (European Court of Human Rights, 2021) and is waiting for their claim to be processed.
Refugee: a person who due to a ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside of the country of his nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it’ (U.N.T.S, 1951).
UASC: a child or young person seeking asylum in the absence of a parent or legal guardian. A child is a person under the age of 18 years or who, in the absence of documentary evidence, appears to be under the age of 18 years.
GOV.UK. (2021) Asylum and resettlement datasets.
Pavli, A. & Maltezou, H. (2017) Health problems of newly arrived migrants and refugees in Europe. Journal of Travel Medicine; J Travel Med. 24 (4), 10.1093/jtm/tax016.
RCPCH Health Policy team (2022) Refugee and Asylum seeking children and young people- guidance for paediatricians. RCPCH.
Refugee Council (2022) Asylum statistics annual trends.
Stevens, A.J. (2020) How can we meet the health needs of child refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants? Archives of Disease in Childhood; Arch Dis Child. 105 (2), 191-196.
Last reviewed: 07 August 2023
Next review: 31 August 2026
Author(s): Kirsty Houston, Conor Doherty, Ruth Bland
Author Email(s): firstname.lastname@example.org
Approved By: Paediatric Guidelines Group