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The SAFER UK Research Project:


"Seeking to prevent sexual abuse and sexual assault of child asylum seekers in the UK"

The SAFER UK Project is research project being undertaken by The Research Centre for Transcultural Studies in Health, Middlesex University and The Embrace UK Community Support Centre. The Project is being funded by the Big Lottery Fund.


What are the aims and objectives of the study?

The aims of this study are to

  • develop an in-depth understanding of the specific vulnerabilities of unaccompanied refugee minors to sexual abuse and sexual assault
  • to identify the weaknesses in the current system for prevention, detection and treatment
  • and to determine how these systems can be strengthened and made more culturally appropriate


Why is the project needed?

In January 2001 the total number of refugee children supported by local authorities was 6078 (Home Office, 2001). There is a need to improve the existing knowledge among those who have responsibility (including policy makers, social and health care practitioners and police) for unaccompanied child refugees, regarding the vulnerability of this group to child sexual abuse and assault.

Our work with Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers in the UK has suggested that this group maybe very vulnerable.


How will the research be carried out?

A participatory research approach will be adopted to involve the risk group and service providers in determining and expressing their own needs, all of which are important processes contributing towards empowerment and capacity building for this group. The research will be divided into the following stages:

1. Literature and documentary review:
In-depth literature review and a review of relevant government policies and the policies of selected local authorities, police, health care providers, and appropriate voluntary sector organisations.

2. Confidential Interviews with young people
In-depth telephone or face to face interviews with young adults from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia who identify themselves as survivors of sexual abuse or sexual assault having suffered it in the UK, and with those who identify themselves as having been at risk of this who fit the selection criteria.

The interviews will be undertaken by specially trained researchers matched by gender and ethnicity if this is the wish of the interviewee (where possible). [The participants will all be offered counselling if they wish to have it.] The young people who are interviewed will also be asked to complete a brief questionnaire.

Those who prefer not to be interviewed can request a questionnaire to be sent or can download it by clicking on the link below:

Young adults who fit the criteria to participate and wish to do so should first read the 'study information sheet for lay participants'

We have produced a list of counselling agencies for participants to seek counselling from if they wish. Participants can request help from the project to pay fees. Please click on the link below and view the list of counselling agencies:

Victims considering legal action please read the document below:

3. Interviews with service providers Interviews will be held with front-line staff as well as policy makers from statutory agencies and voluntary organisations that have contact with young refugees and asylum seekers. For example, social workers; nurses; doctors; police officers; school teachers; and key workers from community organisations.

More information about SAFER UK and the Executive Summary can be downloaded here below

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