Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, Power Relationships and Oppression in Relation to Social Work
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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,…show more content… Power is ‘the capacity to act in such a way as to control others’ (Harris, 1997:28). He argues that everyone has at least some power, and that this power, for the relatively powerless, can be used to influence the decisions of the dominant group. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children not disclosing information can be seen as them exercising the little power they have. This can however have a negative impact on their lives in the UK, for example, being placed under section 17 of the Children Act instead of under section 20, which would offer the child more support.
Foucault (1977) uses discourse to relate to how language can be used to construct ideas and thoughts about groups. Discourses and language can therefore help construct or reduce oppression (Thompson, 2006). If a group has power, they have the ‘ability and opportunity to fulfil or obstruct personal, relational, or collective needs’ (Prilleltensky, 2008). If the dominant discourse of a less powerful group is positive, the group with power may help that group fulfil their needs. If the dominant discourse of a less powerful group is negative, such as with UASC, the powerful group may obstruct them in fulfilling their needs, and therefore will cause oppression.
Innes (2010) argues that the negative discourse of asylum seekers as a threat to British society is portrayed in government literature