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The case

A Home Office whistle-blower reported that dozens of children had gone missing from a Home Office-run facility, with clear indications that they had been trafficked by criminal gangsThese children were in the UK without parents and no state authority took parental responsibility for them.

We represented Article 39 in a novel application to the High Court to request that a group of missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children become ‘wards of court’ to ensure proper safeguarding.

Our aim was to ensure that the children’s best interests were being addressed and in particular that orders could be made to help locate them.

We sent a letter before action in a judicial review to the government. This case challenged the lawfulness of these children being without corporate parents, and the practice of keeping them in hotel accommodation without the safeguards of the usual care systems.

The outcome

The High Court ruled that unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK are the responsibility of local authorities, which have full powers and duties to protect them under the Children Act 1989.

The judgment did not disagree with Article 39’s standing to bring an “inherent jurisdiction”, which will be of great benefit to children in the future. This judgment is likely to be used by other charities to ensure that local authorities take responsibility for all children in their area, including those who have sought asylum. 

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