With some young refugees and asylum seekers being wrongly treated as adults, Kent Refugee Action Network’s continued work in helping them settle into a new life in the UK has been vital.
From providing cooking classes to helping with casework, the charity helped them prepare for the challenges of living independently.
And to recognise its overall efforts in supporting them, KRAN has been awarded this year’s Hans Albrecht Foundation Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Rights.
This award is given to an individual or an organisation that is deemed to have made an outstanding contribution to the field of human rights.
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Bridget Chapman, of KRAN, said: “We’re so excited and so proud and it feels like a vindication of a lot of the work that we’ve been doing. So it’s incredible and we’re very honoured.”
Reflecting on the past year she said she is “immensely proud of the young people we work with”, adding “It’s a big deal for them to speak out about what they’ve been through, because it’s been traumatic for them.
“And because there’s been a pushback from a minority of people who don’t like the voices of refugees, but they have been brilliant at speaking out and raising awareness.
“They produced a report with other young leaders from other charities that went to the Parliament, advising MPs on how they could create safe routes for people that needed them. That to me is one of the biggest and best things that KRAN has done this year.”
Bridget recently raised concerns over young people being wrongly treated as adults when they arrive in the UK.
This comes after the death of Alexander Tekle who took his own life after being moved to adult accommodation despite an ongoing dispute on his real age.
Bridget said: “There are a few ways that young person might end up being told they’re an adult.
“As people arrive into Dover, into the ports, and then go through an assessment, then staff at the port of Dover might tell them that they’re adults.
“The chief inspector of prison wrote a report in November last year that said that he and his staff witnessed people just getting off boats, traumatised, tired from having just made that journey, they weren’t given time to rest, they were questioned and didn’t use interpreters.
“They tried to establish people’s ages using hand gestures.”
Bridget has been working closely with young people for years and met a few who have been labelled as ‘adults’ when they were not.
She said: “I had seen a young person, he was in a foster placement. He was at school and was doing really well. But he was told he wasn’t 15, and that he was 17. They moved him out of the foster placement. They moved him into independent living.
“So he was gone from living in a family to looking after himself. Because he was 17, he couldn’t be in school. And then much later on, maybe 18 months, or two years ‘we think you were the age that you said you were in the first place’ but then it’s too late. He missed out on his education.”
Bridget said this experience can be traumatic for young people who are already traumatised.
She added: “And if they go into the system, either in Kent or with the National Transport Scheme, young people could go into different local authorities around the country.
“It happens everywhere, that young people are told by social workers that they seem a little bit mature. So they do an age assessment process and then they tell the young person that they’re older than they are.”
The team at KRAN faced a number of challenges due to COVID, preventing them from helping a greater number of people in need.
“We don’t have huge spaces to work in,” she said. “The team at KRAN has worked really hard to find new ways of working with people. So we’ve done a lot more stuff outside. We’ve done quite a lot of sport activities.
“We’ve met up in parks, we’ve gone on walks… so I am really proud of the way the team has worked incredibly hard to find new and innovative ways.”
Commenting on receiving the award Dr Razia Shariff, chief executive of KRAN said: “KRAN is honoured and delighted to have been chosen for the Hans Albrecht Foundation Award in recognition of our outstanding contribution to the field of human rights.
“Through the recent challenging times our staff, trustees and volunteers have as always adapted and adjusted to overcome the new context, showing their commitment and dedication to the young people we exist to support. Those young people have remained positive and resilient during these trying times.
“KRAN will continue to speak truth to power, working to change the wider narrative to be more humane and respectful of the rights of young refugees and asylum seekers to seek safety in the UK and flourish so that they can contribute to our communities.
“We thank the Hans Albrecht Foundation for their work in advancing and promoting human rights in the UK as part of the legacy of Hans who himself experienced similar hardships to the young refugees of today.”
This content was originally published here.