Monday 28th March 2022
Human rights charity RAPAR is calling on Manchester city council to explain why children seeking safety have not yet been allocated places in local schools.
RAPAR is demanding that the city council introduce a systematic approach with an accurate count of all the children of refugees living in hotels in the city, along with their ages, whether they have applied for schooling or not, and how long ago.
Dr Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, said: "This should be happening In Manchester - and everywhere else too. It is a statutory responsibility, not an action to be undertaken by volunteers."
The children and their families are claiming asylum in the UK after escaping war and persecution - but they are stuck in temporary hotel accommodation because of inhumane and lengthy delays in the UK asylum and immigration system.
The city council is responsible for the education of children living in the Manchester hotels but many of them have already spent months out of school. The local authority is only now starting to respond to volunteers' deep concerns that children are missing their right to an education. It has been difficult for volunteers to establish how many children are living in the hotels and are not in school. But anecdotally it seems that many have been denied education for a long time.
The families are living in poverty so their children are confined to the hotel premises for most of the time. They have even set up their own classroom in a hotel car park, chalking images of trees, flowers and freedom on the ground.
Currently, the UK government is attempting to cut Britain adrift from the refugee convention that was created after World War II. The Nationality and Borders Bill, due to become law in the next few months, attacks established refugee protections and practices by criminalising people who have yet to attempt to reach the UK.
Dr Moran added: "It is not criminal to seek safety. It IS criminal to leave any child bereft of their schooling. Neither the government nor Manchester City Council can justify their failure to educate these children or their failure to publicly inform the people of both this country and this city that there are indigenous and refugee children waiting for school places in number. We want to know now how many children - both British and refugee - are being denied their human right to education so that we can be directly involved in ending this travesty of children's rights."
The children's physical and mental health is also affected because they have little opportunity to use their creative and physical energies. RAPAR is insisting that the city council, as the education authority responsible, must clarify how many children have been failed in this way, why it is happening and when they will all be allocated school places.
Parents became so concerned about the lack of help in finding schools for their children that they obtained and completed school admission forms with the assistance of supporters. These forms are now with the city council.
Chris Thomas, Founder and President of Football For Humanity, has welcomed children and parents to the weekly football sessions he has organised at a Manchester sports centre.
He said: "Play and education are every child's right. It is a fundamental part of their childhood where memories are made. We must do all we can to ensure children's rights are promoted and defended. While the children wait for their rights to be respected, Football for Humanity and RAPAR have created a safe space where children and families can play football, learn and grow together."