Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Not refugees, not children

Truly vulnerable children in the care system are being neglected in favour of asylum seekers who may be over 18

I was interviewing ten foster parents in west London for a report on children in care. Foster parents are in great demand, so I was startled to discover that only one of the sets of parents was looking after the sort of vulnerable children you imagine to be in the care system. The others were looking after unaccompanied asylum-seeker children.

They made an alarming claim: three of these seemed to be adults passing themselves off as boys. ‘The first thing they ask for is a razor,’ said one foster parent, ‘They’ve got these big beards.’ A woman admitted she found it embarrassing having a grown man posing as a 17-year-old. But the authorities appeared uninterested. ‘Our concerns are just fobbed off,’ said another.

A counter-extremism expert told me: ‘There is nothing in the system to stop a 26-year-old Isis fighter coming here, stating he is 17 and claiming asylum.’

Anyone forced to flee his or her country with a well-founded fear of persecution can claim asylum. An orphan under 18 has special rights. They receive the same benefits as a child taken into care. No one would begrudge a genuine child refugee these privileges. The problem is the system is open to abuse, and the latest terrorist attack in Parsons Green raises further questions. Ahmed Hassan is an 18-year-old unaccompanied asylum seeker who is alleged to have built the bomb in his foster parents’ kitchen.

We do not know how he came here or what could have led him to do what he is accused of. But it is time, surely, to question our asylum system for refugee children. Yet raise concerns and you risk Gary Lineker labelling you ‘hideously racist and utterly heartless’.

The problem is sorting myth from fact. The first myth, emphasised over and over again, is that these are vulnerable children. The word conjures up images of small boys and girls. Our hearts break for them. The reality is somewhat different.

Only 8 per cent of unaccompanied minors who arrived in the UK in 2015 were, in fact, under 14. This is according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Instead, over half were aged 16-17. Nor was there a balance of boys and girls. Some 91 per cent were male. Save the Children admits, ‘Many come across as being self-reliant and not in need of support’, but it urges that they are often ‘extremely vulnerable and in need of reassurance and care’.

Why are the majority of refugee children in fact teenage boys? Here we come up against another myth: that refugees somehow find their own way to the UK. The truth is, nobody arrives in this country without the help of a people trafficker. This means it is the people traffickers who control our immigration system — not the Home Office. It is they who dictate who comes here. Refugees who cannot afford to pay never make it. If we really want to help the vulnerable, we should be taking children directly from refugee camps.

The central role of people traffickers means that every young person arriving here represents a considerable investment by their family or community back home. This explains why they are nearly all young men. They come from cultures in which men have greater earning power.

As one immigration officer at a busy UK airport with 20 years’ experience of dealing with refugee children explained to me: ‘Ninety per cent of them are not orphans. Their coming here is very well worked out. Their families have paid the people traffickers to bring them here. The intention is for the families to follow shortly after. These are cash-rich young people.’ For the most part, in his opinion, ‘They are not fleeing for their lives.’ In other words, they are economic migrants and therefore not entitled to asylum.

His view is backed up by the actions of the traffickers themselves. As Save the Children warns, the agent will instruct the young person to lie about their nationality and age and destroy all identity documents. Some gangs even provide a pack with information on claiming asylum, fake documents, a ready-made asylum story and a pair of scissors. The only reason for doing this is because they know their clients are economic migrants.

The third myth is that every child refugee is speaking the truth. Actually we have no way of knowing. The lack of documentation means that the most basic facts about a young person cannot be checked: their age, for example, their nationality or even their real name. When I sat in on interviews of adult asylum seekers by determining officers, I was amazed at the vagueness. One man could not remember how long he had been in prison: ‘Maybe one month, maybe one year, maybe many more.’ The tactic is a deliberate ploy promoted by the gangs, whom asylum seekers fear more than the Immigration and Naturalisation Service.

The immigration officer explained: ‘For years now we have had adult Pakistani males arriving in this country maintaining they are Afghan teenagers. They tell me they are 13 or 14, but they are clearly over 20, well developed and with good facial hair.’ In 2015 the second largest number of claimants came from Afghanistan.

The co-operation between traffickers and extremists is a new and alarming threat to our national security, points out Rosalind Ereira of Solidarity with Refugees. Some migrants sign up to support Isis in exchange for their travel; the money paid by others to the smugglers ‘helps fund Islamic State activities’. A report from Quilliam, a leading counter-extremism think-tank, warns: ‘There is no question that militant groups target refugee youth for recruitment.’

The immigration officer is frustrated because he knows by sight many of the ‘facilitators’ or people traffickers. These are often young men on benefits who appear mysteriously able to travel ten times a year to Dubai and Africa. They charge a high price for a personalised service in which they accompany the young migrants on the plane before leaving them at the terminal. But the traffickers have British or EU passports. ‘I have no power to stop a British citizen longer than five minutes otherwise my bosses upstairs will kick off. I can do nothing without the traffickers’ permission. Nothing — and they know that.’

Despite the security threat, few in authority appear willing to tackle the problem. When a Conservative MP suggested checking the age of young asylum seekers with dental or X-ray tests of the hand to measure bone density, he was accused of ‘vilifying’ refugees. Ruth Allen, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said medical tests would be ‘very intrusive and could be re-traumatising’.

When Norway insisted on a dental examination of arriving refugee children, they discovered nine out of ten were, in fact, over 18.

As a social worker, Allen must know the dangers of introducing grown men into schools and foster families. Paul Chadwick of Croydon borough council warned a House of Lords Committee last year of sexual exploitation in schools ‘by adults claiming to be children and placed in a school’. A worker in a residential home in Kent for children in care said that half of the children there are unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. In her estimation, more than half the migrants are not children at all, but in their twenties.

‘They can be quite frightening at times,’ she said. ‘They are aggressive and have an attitude problem. Many have no respect for women because of their culture. No one is giving consideration to the risks they pose, not just to staff but to the other children in the home. Because they are older, they have a lot of influence on the youngsters, who are very vulnerable. They introduce the children to alcohol and get them into crime like street robberies. It is a serious problem, which those in authority are not tackling.’

There is another issue. Our most vulnerable children are in competition with these asylum-seeking young people for a limited number of foster parents, a limited number of places in care homes and, above all, a limited amount of money.

Explaining who is losing out, a social worker says the system has ‘moved away’ from providing a service to the British kids in its care: ‘Instead we are dealing with problems particular to young asylum seekers — their legal status, visits to the Home Office and so on.’ She went on angrily: ‘This at the expense of our own 16- to 17-year-old care leavers who need a lot of support and are not getting it.’

The investment made by their families means the majority of the young migrants are, as the heads of various social services confirmed, ‘very motivated, see it as an opportunity and do very well. They are largely middle-class, male and expect to go to university,’ said one.

What a contrast to the care leavers I interviewed. At the age of ten, Trevon came home to find his crack-addict mother hanging dead in the kitchen. The lives of these kids are desperate. But Lily Allen does not cry for them on camera and it is almost impossible to get them the help they need.

It is time to overhaul a system that is corrupt, dangerous and fails to help the most deserving. But don’t hold your breath that anything will change, despite a vulnerable child trying to blow us up. The immigration officer summed up the general frustration: ‘You try and apply the rules only to be hauled up from on high and told "to deal with it". I get bitter and twisted about it,’ he said. ‘We are heading into desperate times.’


No ‘Straight Answer’ To Whether Gay Sex Is Sin, Says Archbishop Of Canterbury

The Bible gives a pretty straight answer. (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10)

The Archbishop of Canterbury said Sunday that he could not give a ‘straight answer’ to the question of whether homosexuality is a sin.

Archbishop Justin Welby, leader of the Church of England and symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, tried to dodge the question of homosexuality with general statements about relationships and faithfulness in a Sunday interview with GQ. The interviewer would not relent, however. He claimed he was questioning Welby on the issue because he felt sorry for former Liberal Democrat party leader Tim Farron, who resigned over pressure surrounding his Christian view of homosexuality.

"You know very well that is a question I can’t give a straight answer to," Welby told GQ. "Sorry, badly phrased there. I should have thought that one through."

Welby circled around a "straight answer" for the remainder of the interview and said that he didn’t "do blanket condemnation" and that he did not have a good answer. When prodded on the definition of marriage, Welby simply gave an overview of the controversy over the matter.

"Inherently, within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability of relationships and loving relationships," Welby said.

"I am also aware – a view deeply held by tradition since long before Christianity, within the Jewish tradition – that marriage is understood invariably as being between a man and a woman. Or, in various times, a man and several women, if you go back to the Old Testament. I know that the Church around the world is deeply divided on this in some places, including the Anglicans and other Churches, not just us, and we are – the vast majority of the Church is – deeply against gay sex," Welby added, still refusing to give his view on it.

Welby explained that he struggled to be faithful to tradition and to scripture while also trying to understand how to follow God’s will in this century. Welby did, however, make a careful distinction between disagreement and homophobia, following his admission that the disagreement between African bishops and other Anglican leaders over homosexuality was "irreconcilable."

"I don’t think it is sinful to say that you disagree with gay sex. But to express that by way of hatred for people is absolutely wrong in the same way as misogyny or racism is wrong."

Welby then agreed with the interviewer’s accusation that his answer was "morally a cop-out." "Yes. I am copping out because I am struggling with the issue," the leader of the Church of England said.


Seven in ten people think it's best for children to grow up with both their natural parents

Seven out of 10 people believe it is best for children to grow up with both their natural parents, a report on family breakdown found yesterday.

A similar number count the fragility of millions of families as one of the country's most serious problems, it said.

The scale of public worry about the impact of breakdown on children, and on the wider problems of poverty and crime, was charted by the Centre for Social Justice, the think tank founded by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Mr Duncan Smith and a like-minded group of Tory MPs and peers have been pressing ministers to do more to support marriage, encourage fathers, and remove the rules that penalise couples from the tax and benefit system.

The new report was based on a series of polls designed to test the strength of public feeling on family breakdown and released in advance of the Tory conference.

Only one in six unmarried cohabiting couples will stay together until their children reach the age of 16, and the cost of family breakdown in benefits, education and NHS spending has been calculated at £48 billion a year.

The first CSJ poll, conducted by ComRes, found that 72 per cent of people agree that 'family breakdown is a serious problem in Britain today and more should be done to prevent families from breaking up.'

The survey, carried out among just over 2,000 people, also found that 69 per cent think it 'important' for children to live with both parents.

A second poll, carried out simultaneously by YouGov among 1,665 people, said that 81 per cent think that 'stronger families and improved parenting are important in addressing Britain's social problems.'

It said that nearly nine out of 10, 87 per cent, think it important for children growing up in poverty to have a strong family life.

A third poll, carried out online by with 1,658 replies, said that nearly nine out of 10 say it is important for children to grow up with both parents, and that nearly two thirds of single parents – 62 per cent – agree on the importance of two parents.

Eight out of 10 backed a tax allowance for married couples – including 57 per cent of lone parents – and 91 per cent backed the spending of public money on strengthening families and helping poor parents.

More than seven out of 10 in the ComRes and Bounty polls said the Government should support married couples.

Frank Young of the CSJ said: 'This polling busts the myth that backing families in our fight against poverty has gone out of fashion. There is big public support for any politician willing to be up front about the important role family plays in reducing poverty.

'Lone parents strongly support policies that help families stay together.

'They think it's best for children to grow up with both parents, think governments should give tax breaks to married couples, and they welcome politicians who say stability matters for children.'

Mr Young said: 'In almost every other area of policy, especially health and education, prevention is considered a priority, and we need to take the same approach to family breakdown.'

Theresa May in her election manifesto in the spring departed from David Cameron' s earlier pledges to support the family and the institution of marriage.

Last month Mr Duncan Smith, who was Work and Pensions Secretary until March last year, expressed frustration with apparent lack of interest in family breakdown in Whitehall, when he condemned rumours that state spending on relationship counselling is to be curbed.

Earlier this month 44 Tory MPs, including three former Cabinet ministers, called for bigger tax breaks for married couples and for school pupils to be taught with evidence of the benefits of marriage.


Australia: Some civility in an uncivil society

The CIS’s annual Consilium conference was held late last week and saw the usual gathering of the best and brightest minds from business, government, academia, education and science. A common refrain from those who attend the conference (and CIS events in general) is appreciation for the civil discourse that takes place — no matter the differing views, religious beliefs or political affiliations of those in the debate.

This is something at the heart of CIS mission; a platform to discuss ideas for the freedom and betterment of society in an atmosphere of civility and collegiality.

However, this attitude of respect seems increasingly rare in an age of social media snark, political point-scoring, snappy one-liners preferred over substance, and a capricious US president with a pathological fondness for derision.

Guardian Australia’s political editor and Insiders regular Katharine Murphy spoke at Consilium on the state of Australian politics, and said in her recent (and excellent) Meanjin essay, "…the tone of national affairs is reflexively hostile, trolling and takedowns set the tone of the day, and protagonists are being rewarded for their efficiency at treachery rather than the substance of their contributions."

We see this antagonism playing out all around us; in politics and the mediasphere, certainly, but also —  and increasingly — in daily life. Enmity seems to have become a default setting when reacting to the opinions of those we disagree with.

In Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It, a theory of political economy from 2011, polymath Eric Robert Morse writes: "When it becomes more profitable to make fun of someone or berate them for their beliefs than it is to offer a constructive alternative, intellectual discourse is threatened. And, when a people can no longer rely on intellectual discourse, the society is bound to fall."

Civility is part of the bedrock of democracy, without which true freedom of thought and expression and diversity of opinion is impossible. Lack of civility is corrosive in all spheres — to family and community life, organisational and business success, politics — and to democracy itself. We must find a way back towards courtesy — and, by extension, kindness — if civil society is to be civil by all definitions of the word.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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