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Walking with Amal

Little Amal arriving at Folkestone, UK –  Simon Annand, 2021

“Little Amal, a young refugee, has embarked on a remarkable journey – an epic voyage that is taking her across Turkey, across Europe. To find her mother. To get back to school. To start a new life. Will the world let her? Can she achieve what now seems more impossible than ever?”

Little Amal has been on a journey. The Walk has taken her 8000km across Europe from Turkey, through Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and France. This week she arrived in the UK. When she reaches Coventry, she’ll be meeting children who have been on a journey of their own.

In January 2020 research by the University of Wolverhampton estimated that there were more than 215,000 children living in the UK without secure immigration status (Jolly et al, 2020). At Kids in Need of Defense UK (KIND UK), a pro bono project developed to provide legal representation to children without secure immigration status, we see first-hand the how such insecurity permeates every aspect of children’s lives. It affects family life, social networks, friendships, housing, employment prospects, access to medical help and justice. As these young people transition into adulthood they are excluded from work and higher education and may be removed to a country they’ve never lived in or even visited. KIND UK’s ambition is to create a world where every child is given the opportunity to thrive.

To raise awareness of the journey many of Coventry’s children have been on, from undocumented to British Citizen, KIND UK has worked with Coventry City Council; Coventry City of Culture 2021; and Coventry school children, to develop a children’s citizenship ceremony, the first of which is being celebrated alongside Little Amal’s arrival in the city on 27 October 2021. When the children meet with Amal, they will be presenting her with her own certificate of British citizenship, to let her know that she is welcome, she is wanted, and she is secure.

For many of these children, their journey to citizenship has been fraught with hardship and setbacks. The ceremony, presided over by the Lord Mayor of Coventry and the Chief Registrar, will celebrate Coventry’s newly registered British citizen children, recognise their achievements and honour their resilience and perseverance in obtaining the status to which they are entitled.

Little Amal is a big reminder that every child has rights that must be respected, dignity that must be preserved and potential that must be nurtured – and that Little Amal couldn’t have done it alone. KIND UK is proud to take part in The Walk, just as we’re proud to represent every child who obtains citizenship through our work.