Childhood is a time to be learning new things in class, not learning new ways to survive on the streets; to be running around playing with friends, not running away from police or crime. Children should have a welcoming home, not an empty alleyway. No child should have to live through any of those things, but unfortunately in London and other locations in the UK, that is exactly what’s happening.
At a rapidly growing rate, officials in London are learning that there are hundreds of children living on the streets. Most of them do not even exist according to authorities. The problem is all over the UK including Birmingham, Leeds, Coventry, Nottingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Oxford, and Cardiff. The problem is mostly centered in London, and it’s causing charities and officials to be on high alert. Local organizations, such as Coram Children’s Legal Centre and Peckham Project Safe ‘n’ Sound are also hoping to spread the word about these children who have no identity.
Most of the children who are ‘stateless’ or without identities came to the UK and entered legally with family members, but they were never fully registered. This means that they do not officially have a place they can call home, no nationality and no identity. Since the children do not have any registration or citizenship they cannot attend schools and they cannot be put into any special homes or shelters. “To date, we’ve been approached by over 600 young people. It is a big issue,” Jennifer Blake said. Her mission is to try and help all of the children she can off the streets and into shelters, even ones who are stateless. Tony, who is a seventeen year old from Uganda, is a case that Blake has been working on.
Tony’s father kicked him out two years ago, since then he has been living off the streets and sleeping on buses. “It is a struggle. If you are hungry you need money. But if I steal I end up going in prison and that’s not me, I don’t want that.” Tony said. There are many others that Blake has tried to help. She recently met a girl from Libya, also seventeen, who had to use prostitution in order to pay for food or to find a place to stay the night. The girl was originally staying with a close friend of her mother’s in order to escape the violent military, but after a few months she was thrown out by the friend and forced to survive. “I just ended up living on the streets. Sometimes I feel like killing myself,” the Libyan girl said.
In order to become a registered citizen the children need parents or guardians to prove their nationality, but since most of the kids are thrown out that is a very difficult thing to prove. Unfortunately, not all of them are as lucky as Tony. They go unnoticed by many government officials and charities, fearing that if they do try to reach out they will get in trouble, because most have had to turn to stealing and other crimes in order to survive. The first step to solving the problem is noticing it, and through the work of the government and charities, the problem of stateless children is on its way to being resolved.