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One in ten asylum seekers crossing the Channel is an unaccompanied child, charity says

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By Tadhg Enright
Children refugees painting and drawing at an art class in Folkestone, England.
Children refugees painting and drawing at an art class in Folkestone, England.   -   Copyright  Tadhg Enright / Euronews

One in ten asylum seekers crossing the English Channel is an unaccompanied child, the Kent Refugee Action Network charity estimates.

These children are learning how to adapt to their new lives after fleeing countries such as Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan without parents or family. 

Bridget Chapman, project coordinator at the Kent Refugee Action Network, says that most of the time, children were going to be forced to fight.

Around the age of 14, some were told they would "be recruited by the Taliban and their family did everything they could to get them to safety," Chapman said.

"I’m always amazed how they can overcome what has happened to them and appearing cheerful on the surface. But there are times where we’re having a chat and people open up. They’ve seen parents shot in front of them, they have seen fellow travellers drown and it does leave a tremendous mark on them," she added.

Volunteers at one refugee centre teach the children life skills they could need to be independent, such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting and how to have healthy relationships.

Afghan refugee Hadi Oryakheil, 21, came to the UK five years ago. He told Euronews he knows he has family in the country, but he doesn't know where and has lost all contact with them.

"Nobody leaves for fun, nobody takes a risk for fun to come to a different country. Everybody knows what’s going on in our country," he says.

"But I’m enjoying my life and I work all the time. I don’t think a lot about this but I’ll never forget it, I’ll remember it forever," Hadi added.

Last year, more than 7,400 migrants stepped into small boats and navigated one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world to reach England's south coast, Home Office figures show.

So far this year, at least 4,449 people have tried the dangerous crossing, with 925 people arriving in Dover in the first 10 days of June.

Activists call for more suitable accommodation

When refugees arrive in England, they are taken in by authorities to process their applications.

Activists claim that the British government has not provided enough suitable accommodation and that many children are being placed in hotels that have been closed and repurposed.

Putting children in places like these "is not supposed to happen" they say, and it will be banned next month.

"We’ve been documenting the situation in these accommodations for over a year now, and it is largely security guards running these accommodations with very little training or experience as to how to manage an accommodation that’s housing very vulnerable people," said Maddie Harris, founder of Humans for Rights Network.

Asked for comment, the British government told Euronews that it is determined to end the use of hotels as soon as possible, but campaigners fear it will continue.

Watch the full video report in the player above.