Updated: Mar 2
I set out to write that we are all equal. That regardless of age, race, or ethnicity - British or Afghanistan, Albanian or Syrian - we are all entitled to rights and freedoms from the point of our birth up until we die. That we all have the rights to life, family, protection, and liberty, just to mention a few.
However, waking up to a reality where 200 asylum-seeking children have vanished under the government's eyes since 2021, with no repercussions, it is hard to make that claim. We are not equal.
I want to tell you a story. I’m going to ask you to listen, to put any prejudices aside and listen. To what I write and to yourselves.
This is the story of a child under the age of 16 who is forced to escape a war-torn country and persecution out of a deep desire to be free from their inhumane living conditions. The child is separated from their family. They’re unaccompanied because when you’re fleeing for your life, you don’t always get the privilege of ending up on the same dinghy boat as your parents. You don’t always get to be housed with your family as you wait for your asylum claim to be heard.
So there you are, a minor residing in housing supplied by the Home Office of our nation that prides itself on protecting fairness and human rights. The worst of it should be behind you.
After suffering through the loss of your home and the harrowing conditions of crossing the English Channel in search of safety, the last thing you should ever experience is being abducted at the location where you sought refuge. Yet in the hotel you are placed in, there are no real provisions for your safety. Staff hurl abuse at you and your friends. And when you are taken from that hotel against your will, no one notices. And the worst part is, many people expressed their worries that something similar could occur, and the government did nothing.
I want you to picture this child and 200 others like them. Now imagine they are British.
There would be outrage. There would be an outcry. There would be justice. We’ve had the other two but where is the third? The news first broke out on 24th January 2023. It was discussed in the House of Commons and plastered on various news platforms but we haven’t done enough to hold those at fault to account.
No matter their immigration status, children should be protected. It is their human right to seek asylum but the truth is, we are affording them rights depending on where they are from and how they entered the country.
That we recently commemorated and spoke on how the Holocaust was a tragedy and in the same breath still subject today's asylum seekers to such inhumane treatment saddens me.
That we can hear from government ministers about how they, too, fled persecution and were given the support they needed after arriving in our nation. Whilst simultaneously leaving current asylum seekers in hostels with no safeguarding measures in place and at the mercy of traffickers is both shameful and hypocritical.
In 2022, almost 8,700 kids travelled here in little boats. They left their homes because something there was threatening the very rights we claim everyone should have. "No parent sends a child on a desperately risky journey without a strong cause," and everyday we fail these kids when nothing is done to protect them. As days turn into weeks, I want us to remember that as long as we as a nation do not hold Home Office to account, we are enabling them in hindering a young vulnerable child's right to family, life, education, and freedom from servitude. As long as we sit back and carry on as though nothing happened, we are demonstrating that we are in no way equal and rights are only afforded to those who were born here.
So I urge you to write to your MP, to explain that this is unacceptable, and express your solidarity with asylum seekers and displaced people. You can also continue advocating for the rights of asylum seekers here in the UK - because as long as the agenda is to strip rights and avoid upholding compassionate and dignified treatment, asylum seekers will become more and more vulnerable to attacks and abuse of this kind.
Mulumbeni has been volunteering with SolidariTee since 2022. She is concerned about ensuring the safety and wellbeing of individuals seeking asylum, and she supports the development of compassionate policies that don't further marginalise those who are awaiting their asylum claims.