Outsourcing the ‘best interests’ of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the era of austerity

Rachel Humphris, Nando Sigona

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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This article examines the governance of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) and former UASC in the U.K. and reveals the expanding reach of asylum privatisation to unaccompanied children. In the process, the principle of the ‘best interests of the child’ enshrined in international and national law is being reconfigured through practices of service outsourcing and out-of-county placement that are used to distance local authorities from their statutory responsibilities. Drawing on a mixed-methods approach that combines quantitative data on the distribution and circumstances of UASC and in-depth qualitative interviews with service providers, we identify three intertwining processes that contribute to redefining ‘best interests’: first, the increasing distance in goals and priorities of managers and frontline workers is exacerbated by the emergence of new actors operating within the for-profit sector; second, decisions based on budget saving goals lead to young people being moved around the country and undermining their capacity to access support; third, restructuring and mainstreaming services for UASC misplace the expertise needed in this complex area. As a result of these processes, spaces for resisting such changes are increasingly restricted and ‘best interests’ are reshaped in ways which frontline workers think may be detrimental to the well-being of children and young people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-330
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

This article is based on research carried out in the context of the. Economic and Social Research Council-funded research project ‘Becoming Adult: Conceptions of futures and wellbeing among migrant young people in the UK’ (ES/L009226/2), investigating the well-being outcomes for former unaccompanied migrant children as they reach 18 (www.becomingadult.net).


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