LONDON: Hundreds of child refugees and asylum seekers in England are receiving lessons from volunteers in Manchester hotel car parks due to council failures in helping find them places at local schools, British national daily The Guardian reported.
Founder of Manchester-based charity Refugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research, Dr. Rhetta Moran, accused local and national government authorities of failing families fleeing persecution.
“Parents arriving with children are being asked to fill out forms naming three possible schools for their child to attend in the area,” Moran said.
“This is a near impossible task for someone new to the country whose English might not be strong. It often falls to charity volunteers to assist with the completion of these forms, which are then sent to the city council for processing.”
Children from countries including Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, and Syria, are being housed in hotels throughout the city by the Home Office as they await news on their asylum applications.
But with charity resources stretched for young asylum seekers and refugees in the region, Moran urged Manchester City Council – and Serco, the company contracted by the Home Office to provide accommodation – to address the problem as a matter of priority.
A UK Department for Education spokesperson said: “We must do all we can to welcome refugees who arrive in this country having been forced to flee their homes due to conflict.
“We expect every school-aged child arriving here to begin attending school shortly afterwards. We believe that the best place for all children to be educated is in schools and attendance will help children integrate into the communities in which they are living.”
But one Manchester resident told The Guardian that 30 children had been housed in the same hotel as her, some waiting at least six months for a school place.
She said that while the teaching taking place in makeshift car park classrooms was “very necessary for children who are at a crucial age in their development,” in falling to volunteers and residents to pick up on council failures it was “very unstructured.”
Another resident at the same hotel, said: “Sometimes it’s just a case of them doing some supervised math on the ground in chalk, or residents sharing their skills such as art or sewing.
“It’s informal, but the children are bored and unstimulated without it. Plus, it’s good for them to build their social skills via interactions with other kids.”
A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: “All staff in hotels where families are placed have had guidance shared with them about applying for a school place in Manchester and are aware of the need to apply for a place to access a local school.
“They also have a direct link into the education service in Manchester. This academic year alone, the council has placed more than 400 refugee and asylum-seeker children in schools and colleges.
“This has included commissioning places in secondary schools outside Manchester where there were not sufficient places in their local area.”