Misery of 48 children trafficked alone into city and left in danger

NEARLY 50 children have been smuggled or trafficked into Cardiff in search of asylum – without their parents.

According to figures from the Wales Strategic Migration Partnership, there are currently 97 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children under the care of local authorities in Wales, including 48 in Cardiff.

The children, most of whom cannot speak English, have made terrifying journeys to escape danger in their home countries and look for a better life in South Wales.

But without the protection of their families, these children become extremely vulnerable to crime, drugs, trafficking and prostitution.

Rebwar Mohammed is one of these separated children.

Arriving in Wales after a harrowing escape from Iraq, during which he became separated from his father, 15-year-old Rebwar was taken into the care of social services.

“My father said ‘you have to go away because I worry the terrorist people will try to take your life. You have to leave Turkey’,” said Rebwar, speaking through a translator.

“A man took my hand in the crowd. He put me on a lorry.

“There were three or four people inside the lorry, all men. I know my dad has gone.

“I start crying but am told to stay quiet otherwise they will push me out.

“The other men are very angry and I am scared that something bad will happen.

“When I arrived in the UK by lorry, they said I had to get off now. I didn’t know where I was. I slept in the street.”

Rebwar has managed to get a place at college, which he attends three times week. He has access to an adolescent psychiatrist, GP, health advocate and a case worker from the Welsh Refugee Council.

Due to disputes about his age, he is currently being housed as an adult.

“Back home in Iraq life was difficult but here it is no better,” he said.

“I miss my mum and dad but it’s difficult for me to go back. “When I see a lady with her child holding hands I start crying. I remember my sister, my mum and my past.”

Welsh Refugee Council senior children’s policy officer Daisy Cole said: “Sadly children like Rebwar remain the unseen and unheard children in Wales. “Having fled war, violence and massacre, often enduring a difficult and dangerous journey, they arrive alone, traumatised, frightened and extremely vulnerable without any parental figure to care or protect them. “Yet the services that have a statutory responsibility to safeguard and assess the situation of children are putting asylum-seeking children at risk again and again.”

She added age assessments were prone to error and were not in the best interests of children seeking asylum.

“Children do not arrive with birth certificates or passports but are expected to prove they are children through interviews and intrusive medical examinations that can never give fully conclusive answers.”

NSPCC Cymru policy and public affairs manager Simon Jones said: “If a child is unaccompanied they are even more vulnerable and we need to make sure that practitioners, in all sectors, have an awareness of the issues they may have faced in order to provide them with appropriate protection.”

Keith Towler, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said: “My main concern is that these children are unable to claim their rights. Any child who is in Wales is entitled to children’s rights under the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, and while these children are in our country we must make sure that they are getting the things that they need and deserve to be safe and healthy.”

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: “Children unaccompanied by an adult that come to Wales claiming asylum or for other reasons are extremely vulnerable and we have issued guidance to local authorities on their care and support.”