Da'aro Youth Project and 46 charities (including Mind, Refugee Council and the Children's Society) have written to Nadine Dorries MP, Minister for Suicide Prevention, with concern for the high number of suicides amongst teenagers who arrived in the UK as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Da'aro Youth Project is a small community-led charity based in south London, working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people from the Horn of Africa. Research by Da'aro Youth Project has identified that at least 11 teenagers have died by suicide in the last 5 years. All of these children and young people were either children in care or care-leavers at the time of their deaths. We are gravely concerned that this number is just the 'tip of an iceberg' as there is no requirement for coroners to record nationality or immigration status of deaths they deal with. While deaths of children in care are reported to the Department of Education by local authorities, deaths of care leavers do not have to be reported.
Comment from Benny Hunter, Project Coordinator at Da'aro Youth Project:
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths by suicide of young people arriving in the UK, seeking asylum. The unprecedented number of such deaths has required us to speak out. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these teenage boys - we want their grief and pain to be heard by this government. We are gravely concerned that these deaths that we - a small community organisation - are aware of may be not all those who have died under similar circumstances. Without publicly available data, we cannot know how many other young people coming to the UK seeking sanctuary have gone on to take their own lives.
The mental health crisis facing young asylum-seekers and refugees is a consequence of the hostile asylum system and of brutal austerity cuts to children's social care and mental health services. Preventing further deaths means first establishing an inquiry that considers the mental health crisis affecting child and young adult asylum-seekers, and secondly taking action by investing in children in care and care-leavers, investing in their mental health care and reforming the asylum system to end the re-traumatising hostility and inbuilt delays. Child refugees granted leave to remain in the UK must be allowed to reunite with their families - a right they cannot currently access. Without changes we fear more young people will lose hope."
See reporting in the Guardian: Charities raise alarm over suicides of young asylum seekers in UK