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Failed by the First World

Many of Britain's 23,500 refugee children have fled the world's horrors only to suffer this country's disdain, as a report frpm the Young Minds charity revealed last week. Reva Klein reports on how one London borough is trying to help them.

Somalians represent the largest refugee community in Harrow. Adam Hassan, who came to Britain nine years ago, is Harrow's first refugee outreach worker. "We are realistic," he says. "We understand the financial constraints on the council and it is clear that the education department is aware of the issues and is committed to taking them on board. Nevertheless the system is failing our children - not just in Harrow, but everywhere.

"There are children, 14 and 15-years-old, coming from a rural background to a refugee camp then to a city in the First World without even their basic ABCs. They are put into schools with children of a similar age where they don't understand what's being taught and where they are under pressure from the curriculum.

"The national curriculum means that pastoral care takes second place. Children with trauma don't get the counselling that they need. These children have special needs that should be addressed. I think six to eight months of intensive English teaching in units within mainstream schools is what they require."


There is no breakdown of figures for the numbers of refugee pupils in each authority. What is known is that 85 per cent of the 23,500 refugee children in English schools live in the inner-London boroughs. Anywhere between 250 and 500 children arrive each year as unaccompanied minors, half of whom go to children's homes. Among the outer-London authorities, Brent has 1,800 refugee children, the majority of whom are Somali; Redbridge also has 500, mostly from Somalia; Barking and Dagenham has 110, mainly Zairean; Waltham Forest has 656, half of whom are Somali. Ealing, because of its proximity to Heathrow, has 2,000 refugees in its schools, more than any other outer-London borough.

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