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New RLI report explores model court process for migrant children

The report, written for Methoria, considers the benefits and challenges of establishing a separate court for unaccompanied migrant children.

On Wednesday 20 March, RLI researchers launched a new report about creating a specialist pilot court for asylum-seeking children.

The report - Equal Justice for Migrant Children - Towards a Specialist Court for Unaccompanied and Separated Migrant Children - was commissioned by Methoria, a UK human rights charity, and was launched at a meeting chaired by Baroness Kennedy at the House of Lords.

The report explores the benefits of a proposed new specialist court for unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children in the UK, and the practical steps needed to put such a model into practice. 

Children who are not British citizens currently do not have straightforward ways to resolve their immigration status, particularly if they do not have a parent or guardian in the UK. The process for asylum-seeking children in particular is beset with delays, and the process can be confusing, overwhelming and inappropriate for the young people trying to navigate the system. 

The new specialist court, which was proposed by the First Rights Project of Methoria, would address these challenges by having one court to resolve welfare, international protection and immigration matters in line with child rights obligations in the 1989 UN Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC).

The report, which was authored by Vickie Knox, Frances Trevena, and David Cantor at the RLI, considers the benefits and challenges of establishing such a court, and features interviews with key stakeholders, including young people with firsthand experience as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK.

"A specialist court has the potential to offer significant advantages in terms of the protection of migrant children, and for savings and efficiency within the system. However, the political and systemic barriers to advancing the pilot court should not be underestimated. A two-pronged strategy that engages buy-in from both politicians and practitioners is needed to unlock support and funding." - Professor David Cantor, Director of the RLI


The launch of the report is the latest in a series of high-profile activities undertaken by the RLI in recent weeks.

On 14-15 March, we hosted the ‘Internal Displacement and Solutions’ Conference’, which brought together researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and students from all disciplines to discuss the pressing challenge of ‘solutions’ to internal displacement. The conference featured a number of high profile speakers, including Robert Piper, Special Adviser on Solutions to Internal Displacement Office of the United Nations Secretary General.

The conference was organised our Internal Displacement Research Programme, which has been promoting and facilitating wider research on internal displacement since 2019.

Earlier in March, we also ran a short course on Research Methods in the Refugee and Forced Migration Field. The 5-day course introduced fundamental research principles and design in the social sciences, as well as advanced qualitative and quantitative research techniques such as oral history, participant observation, surveying and sampling. The course was attended by 22 people from across the world.


Thank you to the School of Advanced Study for initially posting this story on their website.