African woman's perspective on seeking asylum; Just how safe are our kids in the asylum homes

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Thu 26th Dec, 2013

Imagine being born and raised in the asylum home; imagine being a child living with psychologically disturbed adults, not knowing a real home but just the asylum camp walls. How do you even, as a mother explain to your child why he/she is living in a situation different from his/her colleagues from school or Kindergarten. So many questions have been put forth by kids born to asylum seeking parents when they come of age. I have seen some of them grow up from being innocent bouncing babies to young energetic teens.
Truthfully, we all would like to have our children grow up in comfortable and homely environments, the one free from aggression, injustice or even psychologically disturbed persons. Just figure out having not only your first child but also the second, third and fourth in an asylum home, raising and nurturing them all in one small room. In an environment unfit for their upbringing.

This is what Nasifa from Afghanistan had to go through raising her four kids behind the asylum walls. Being children they often go through a stage of night-time fears, including being afraid to get up to go to the bathroom on their own. Remember everything in their homes is shared, from sleeping rooms, kitchen to bathrooms. If an adult like me had fears of going to the bathroom all by myself, how about a little child. Mind you this is a place were every one is mentally enclosed in their own small worlds. They don't mind risking anything for recognition. At times I would walk along the corridors in the night and there is a queue of not only young men but also small boys making advances to the females who pass by. Not only are they whistling at you but also trying to touch the sensitive parts of your body. So these kids night fears are justified. Asylum homes are surely no places for mothers and their growing up daughters or even your sons. If this happens to adults how safe would your daughter or son be? For the above reason, it's now the parents, with fears, and the ones who are enforcing strict rules to their kids never to visit the bathroom alone at night. The dangers are real big here.

On the other hand, some parents were acting on the contrary; take for instance, in my previous home was a grandmother of five from Macedonia. Her eldest grandchild was 13 at the time. Because of the kind of environment we were living in, the 13 year old was already involved in a string of sexual encounters so as to have a little pocket money for her, her sisters and brother. Her grandmother would always be happy at the end of the day when she got some money from this little young teen to buy a pack of cigarettes. With less interest of knowing were her teen grandchild was getting the money from. Her eight year old grandson was also once thrown out of the room in the wee hours of the night by the man he was asked to share a room with, simply because this man had to have sex. So this young boy came knocking on the grandmothers room door and he eventually spent the rest of the night with 9 other women in the same room.
We could say that the girls are the most unsafe in the homes, but so are some boys. A lady I knew who lived in the same home with me had a very close male friend who sometimes helped her take care of her three children while she attend appointments, German classes or even visited friends elsewhere. Both of them of African origin. They were so close that she would even let her kids stay the nights with him whenever they wanted. Just after a while she noticed that this young man was buying her 11 year old son presents including expensive mobile phones. After digging into detail, did she realise that her young 11 year old was sexually being used by her own friend. Thank God she took legal action against him with out delay. These are just among the things our innocent kids go through in the asylum camps. Some of them way too horrible to talk about.

So many children are in our inhumane and unjust asylum-seeker system. They are living in direct provision, a term that hides the reality of their lives. Although irregular, accompanied or unaccompanied asylum seeking children have a right to access a number of public services, contradictory and frequently changing rules and regulations, cuts to public spending and broader reforms in the provision of public services have limited their ability to take advantage of these rights. Many children, despite being relatively protected by many government rules and regulations, this does not shield them from the physical and mental impact of their parents' precarious legal status. Leaving most of them to grow up in deprivation, as their parents' status limits their access to the job market, and their recourse to action when working in exploitative conditions. In the end, many children struggle to understand their rights and entitlements, and they often don't have access to advice and/or legal representation needed to ensure they benefit from them. It's even worse for the unaccompanied asylum-seeking children as many have difficulty proving their age which often leads to them being treated as adults.

To hit the last nail on the coffin is the constant shifting of unrecognised parents with their kids. This always disrupts with the children's education, support networks, health needs or home life. A mother of one from Tibet once told me, how she and her seven-year-old son were moved six times in just three years, causing huge disruption to his school life and ability to make friends. They were never given more than a few days' notice. One wake's up in the morning and their names are hanged on the notice board asking them to shift to a different location. Although the likes of Caritas, Refugio or Flüchtlingsrat are continuously advocating for the proper treatment of minors and persons with families, sometimes this has fallen to the deaf ears of the authorities. And shockingly, instead of being treated with respect and humanity, because they are minors, they are forced to live in cramped, crowded, dirty and unsafe accommodation areas with many single adults.
My dear readers, I leave it to you to imagine what our precious innocent ones have to go through. A life they did not call for.

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