Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, Power Relationships and Oppression in Relation to Social Work Essay

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This essay explores how unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) are oppressed in the UK. An unaccompanied asylum seeking child is a person under the age of eighteen who has left their country of origin in order to seek refuge and is ‘separated from both parents and are not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom has responsibility to do so’ (UNHCR, 1994:121). They are therefore applying for asylum in their own right. Discrimination is the process of identifying that someone is different and, due to this difference, treating them unfairly (Thompson, 2006). Xenoracism is discrimination that is aimed at people specifically because they are from a different country, and are therefore ‘strangers’ (Sivanandan,
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For example, finger-printing of asylum seekers became standard practice, which is widely acknowledged to happen when an individual is suspected of a crime. The White Paper Fairer, Faster, Firmer (The Stationary Office, 1998) implied that many asylum seekers were fraudulently claiming asylum for economic reasons. The Immigration and Asylum Act 2004 gave immigration officers the power to arrest immigrants travelling without legal documentation. Travelling with passports and visas is rare for asylum seekers, due to the way they have to leave their country. Therefore, the act of seeking asylum can in itself make the individual a criminal. The discourse that the public have of asylum seekers, and the collective power they have, causes government to rewrite laws to criminalize asylum seekers (Innes, 2010).
This negative discourse therefore causes oppression on a structural level. Oppressions that happen on the structural level are due to power imbalances between different groups in society causing discrimination to be ‘sewn in’ to society (Thompson, 2006:28). In relation to UASC, this can be due to policy and legislation, language differences and their age. An asylum seeking child’s age however, can be seen to lead to a positive structure, as they will receive more support than an adult under the Children Act 1989.
Thompson (2006) argues that oppressions on the personal, cultural and structural (PCS) level are all