Child migrants at risk of suicide, say aid workers

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Charity workers fear child migrants may commit suicide following the clearance of the Calais Jungle.
Citizens UK says children and young people may become so desperate about their asylum claims that they become a suicide risk.
The charity believes that there has been a “significant deterioration” in the mental health of children left living in limbo following the demolition of the Calais camp.
According to latest statistics, some 1,600 migrants and refugees who are unaccompanied minors have been taken by bus to 60 centres across France.
Currently, the UK has taken 300 unaccompanied children and the British Home Office has pledged to help hundreds more.
However, Citizens UK said they had grave concerns for the 40 children they were currently supporting in France. Of those 40, say aid workers, a third have told them they are suffering suicidal thoughts. Three-quarters have suffered a huge deterioration in mental health and nearly all of the children said they were more anxious than before the camp was demolished.
Dr Susannah Fairweather, a consultant psychiatrist who has worked as an independent medical witness assessing unaccompanied minors in Calais, said further delays were creating a “cumulative trauma” for youngsters which would make it more difficult for them to settle in their final destination.
She said that any delays to processing their asylum claims could cause a large deterioration in children’s mental health, including the very real risk of suicide.
After working on the ground in Calais, she said young people found it difficult to adjust to normal every-day life having been forced to live in such unstructured circumstances in makeshift homes.
Dr Fairweather added: “It’s cumulative trauma which has a much more disturbing effect on young people’s development. It’s toxic for them.
“I don’t think the UK is prepared for all their different needs. It needs to be a multi-agency approach with social services, mental and physical health services and legal services. Everybody needs to work together.”
The charity held a small demonstration outside the Home Office’s Lunar House, to call for the transfer of children from France to the UK to begin again straightaway to give the youngsters the best chance of an ordinary life when they arrive.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has issued assurances that it is working hand in hand with the French government to identify children who are eligible to come to Britain.

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