A teenager standing in a tunnel with light at the end of it

'Lives on Hold: Our Stories Told' - The Legal and Social Impacts of Covid-19 on Young Unaccompanied Asylum-Seekers in England

A new collaborative research project between the University of Liverpool, University College London (UCL) and University of Southampton, working closely with the Shpresa Programme, has successfully received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation's rapid response to Covid-19. The project, which has a total value of approximately £354,000, has been awarded funding of over £283,000 from the ESRC.

Covid-19 has had a hugely detrimental impact on the lives of young people, but the challenges facing young unaccompanied asylum-seekers have been further compounded by disruption caused by the pandemic to asylum processes and welfare support services. Additionally, the post-Brexit legal environment may further affect the rights available to child migrants in the UK. Many teenagers on the cusp of adulthood will find their children’s rights disappearing while still waiting to be granted asylum.

Thanks to ESRC funding, this interdisciplinary research will be able to provide the first detailed study of the effects of the legal and welfare effects of Covid-19 on unaccompanied asylum seekers aged 16 – 25. As well as evidencing how their legal, welfare and civil society representatives are responding to delays in front line services, it will suggest concrete legal, policy and practice proposals to ensure their rights and welfare are upheld.

The study will explore the impact of Covid-19 on the delays in the asylum process and perhaps more importantly will give voice to young unaccompanied asylum seekers, with a focus on Albanian young people as a prominently marginalised group. This element will examine the extent to which Covid-19 compounds young unaccompanied asylum seekers’ exposure to risks such as exploitation, poor mental health, and the risks of additional delays ‘ageing out’ young people from the special protections currently available to children within the system.

The Principle Investigator is University of Liverpool’s Professor Helen Stalford, who is director of the European Children’s Rights Unit within the School of Law and Social Justice. Co-Investigators are Dr Elaine Chase, Associate Professor in Education, Health and International Development at UCL, Dr Ingi Iusmen, Associate Professor in Governance and Policy and Dr Jana Kreppner, Associate Professor in Developmental Psychopathology at University of Southampton. Importantly, the project team will work with a group of 10 unaccompanied young asylum seekers as co-researchers, accessed through and supported by the Albanian-support charity, Shpresa Programme.

The rapid response, multi-informant study will collect data from legal practitioners, social workers, services and refugee charities/NGOs and young unaccompanied asylum seekers themselves, and will run for eighteen months, until July 2022.

Job opportunity

We wish to appoint a highly motivated postdoctoral research associate (PDRA) to join the research team on a full time basis for the project, “Lives on Hold: Our Stories Told”: Assessing the impact of Covid-19 on young unaccompanied asylum-seekers’ legal advice, representation and decision-making.

Download the job description below for more details:

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