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tv   BBC Newsnight  WHUT  September 18, 2010 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT

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funding for this presentation is made possible by the freeman foundation of new york, stowe, vermont, and honolulu. newman's own foundation. the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. and union bank. >> union bank offers unique insight and expertise in a range of industries. what can we do for you? >> we are a nation of explorers. we seek new ways of living, of thinking, and of expressing ourselves.
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we take risks. we learn from experience. and we keep moving forward. that is why we encourage and celebrate the explorer in all of us. >> and now "bbc newsnight." >> this week, children are supposedly in a foster care living in misery. >> they do not have proper arrangements, and therefore, there is no action taken. >> testimony still alive of repeated violence, made possible through a life of questionable
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practices. >> they might say i and evil. -- i am evil. >> hello. children are placed in foster care as a place of safety, although there are countless numbers in britain that are being kept, abuse, or exploited by adults. the children are being kept in what is known as private posturing. there was the notorious case of a child who was tortured and killed by her aunts and her partner. children in britain continue to be abused of child protection agencies are in the dark. >> his childhood did not leave many good memories, but he does
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it sometimes and draw it. >> it makes me escape for a while. it makes me happy. >> at this picture, of an outstretched at this, is called "life with auntie." did she ever here? >> did she ever hit me? yes. she would hit me hard enough. [unintelligible] she would make an effort. she would not come to school functions or things like that, really. >> he lived with his on, and resents moved, from when he arrived in london from nigeria aged five, until he was 18.
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then he discovered she was not his answer at all. to this day, he does not do -- he does not know who she was. he does not know much about himself either. he grew up as one of britain's invisible children, therefore unprotected. it is estimated and in the uk today there are 10,000 children living in similar unregistered arrangements. many come from abroad, and many are being abused. one agency has found that at any given time, any local authority in britain has three or four cases of private flustering where there is a job protection agency. >> nearly half of those cases, the children originate from overseas. that is just the small minority of the cases out there. those are the cases where the children are being abused. there are cases where it
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concerns are not being raised. there are probably more going on and we just do not know about it. >> the the 10 years ago, we found out too late about one of horrific case, the 8-year-old victoria. she was brought from the ivory coast to live with her great aunt, and she suffered fatal abuse. this prompted a major reform of britain's social services, including new rules to ensure that they could prevent a case like this. this shows how easy it is to keep the child and visible from the authorities. these are the records we found, where you are first mentioned in the school register where you went to school. it says here you're living with -- >> [unintelligible]
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>> you have no idea? >> no. i do not remember. >> the first official record we can find comes from his north london primary school. but he did not know who originally brought him here from nigeria or you first looked after him. >> is it possible that this could be your grandmother? >> i do not know. i do not know. >> these records, and other documents the bbc has obtained, and give various and different names for the adults said to have been responsible for him at various points of this child it. he says in fact, there was only one. auntie. why you think you ended up living with that woman? what you think it happened? >> i do not know. >> he says he was treated worse than her own children. >> i was not sure why there was
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the sudden change. >> what kind of things? >> for like, when i was a kid -- maybe i did not clean the kitchen properly. she would say i am evil. that was what my mom died. >> when you asked about your parents, what did she say? >> i did not ask about my parents. >> but she said your mom was dead? what did you say about your father? >> she just used to say, your parents are dead. stuff like that, really. >> so, what about your mother? the you know anything about her? >> i think she is dead. >> who told you that? >> my hands. she always told me my mother is dead. >> students are performing up
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play, highlighting the dangers that come with foster in. >> it was normal. it was what life was like. i did not know anything else. >> most private foster families are not like this. but what is the motive when they are? some want a domestic side. some want to claim benefits. some and usually take a child in out of kindness or duty, but later turned cruel. >> do you understand? >> yes, ma'am. >> in his case, we do not know the reason. but a teacher in later befriended him believed she did tell from his -- she could tell from his behavior how unhappy his job it was. >> he was so different. he was overly deferential, to the point of not being able to make eye contact. he could not look at you. he spoke softly, he was
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virtually inaudible. he was just introverted, shy, anxious. >> it says child, parent, a person responsible? >> [unintelligible] >> what warning at sides have been picked up -- warning signs up and bit the other professionals? although his name of his caregivers on various documents did not match, it seems that the council did not investigate whether his auntie was really his answer or not. >> they do not have to justify the final arrangements. there is no action taken. there is no investigation as to whether the family back, actually consented to the job being in placement, and there is
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no assessment of whether the place is a good place for the job. >> there is now a better system for private fostering, but the agency found in 2008 more than a quarter of local authorities still have an adequate arrangements for doing so. the legislation introduced after the death of victoria requires authorities to be pro-active in investigating private fostering. in practice, counselors often only know when foster parents themselves and form them, as they are obliged by law to do. they usually down. it is estimated one in eight of britain's informal foster's -- fosterers has inform the authorities. and in practice, it seems that they do not. below has no teeth. >> we did not go in and do a
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head count of children. we live in civilized circumstances where communities police themselves. that is a good thing. the fact of the matter is this. when it comes to light that a child is not being cared for or safeguarded, that needs to be investigated. i can give you the example of a case of benefit fraud when the child was found to be in a home, which you might pass as being private fostering, they were being abused or benefit fraud. the prosecution was for benefit fraud, and not for failing to notify. >> but i eat in the case of victoria, the failure -- but in the case of victoria, the failure of communities to police themselves as problematic. >> this is where we have some africans who are saying, yes,
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that is how i was brought up, and it did not do me any harm. what is the problem here? we also have the social workers who are from different backgrounds. for example, they could be south african, white, from australia, london, even english. wyck, that is what we do. if it works for them, why should we interfere in their culture, if that is how they bring up their children? >> he wishes there had been interference in his case. the older he got, the more confusing his life. when he was 18, and he was taken to live with a man he had only met a few times, he says, and was told was his uncle. the man now declared he was his father, not dead after all. the man said his aunt was no relation at all. >> that is when i found out she was not related to me.
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i believed him to be honest. to me, and he was kind of like a stranger who came and took me back to where he lived, really. so, that is why i ran away. >> what reason did he give for why you ended up with this woman? >> he said because he was too young to look after me. >> he soon ran away from the man he was finally convinced what's his father, having found that very little about his background. he still wants to know more about his real family, back in the homeland he likes to imagine as a paradise. the real nigeria is sometimes less idyllic. i traveled there to the neighborhood where he was born to try to find out, on his behalf, how and why he laughed. he managed to get a hold of his birth certificate from 1986, and
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his mother's death certificate from 2001, and the address of the family home is the same in both cases. what we are hoping is that the family still lives there today. this is the house? we have permission from his grandmother to visit and found. very nice to me yet. hello. my name is tim. >> suddenly, a shot from across the street. >> [unintelligible] >> "put down the camera or i will break it." it was his father back from britain on holiday, visiting his other children. when we stopped filming, his father shouted at us for a long time. he was very angry with his son for, as he put it, "running away." he insisted they were loving family and there had never been abused.
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he refused to give details about his son's history and he would not say when it was he came to britain. back in north london, he has been forced into a long quest to obtain documents from various authorities. today, a council -- he visits the council to establish his identity. he has been held by his former special needs teacher, his family took him in after he left his father, when he was living panelists on the street. she discovered, to her horror, that having grown up as an invisible child, he was in danger of being thrown out of the country. >> i presumed he was a child to bed been in the country from however old, and he was -- who had been in the country from however old, and he was a british citizen. but he was living in this limbo land because he could not go
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back to where he had come from because he did not have documents. he could not go forward because he could not access anything. >> animation is his passion, and with her support, he was able to go to university. this is his graduation video. there were many bureaucratic obstacles to overcome before he could prove he had lived in britain for 14 years. >> it was scary in a way. i did not have my passport, my british passport. it makes you feel like an outsider in a way. >> his story has a happy ending, but many former invisible children, mentally traumatized without official
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identity, move on to a life of crime. >> you have to do so many things to survive. for example, they have to, you know, go to prosecution. that is one way you can earn an income. for some of the young men, going into crime coming into drugs, that is a way to earn an income. it is a terrible, terrible thing that is happening under the radar. >> but what about the failures that allowed the hon. far and children to be brought -- allow vulnerable far and the children to be brought into britain? >> the questions that were not asked the then would not be asked now. >> victoria's story and his began in a culture where children often live in extended, sometimes very extended, families. >> [inaudible] >> godwin heads the lagos branch
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of the anti-trafficking agency in nigeria. >> as a young boy, i went to my uncle's house. you need to be shaped up for life. that was used as training poor children. >> but for some of the abused children in the shelter he runs, the formal fostering went badly wrong. >> [inaudible] >> these boys were taken by a family friend to ghana, which the promise of a better education with their father's blessing. >> it was an opportunity to go
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to a better school. [unintelligible] i received a message, a call. there were no where to be found, the two boys. >> [unintelligible] >> did they force you to do that? >> yes. >> every day? >> yes. we could not eat. >> every year, about 200,000 nigerian children are taken from their homes and put to work. most live with in nigeria or go to other west african countries. some become prostitutes, and some in the up in britain,
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nigeria's old colonial master, home to an nigerian community probably numbering in the hundreds of thousands. a study in 2003 found more unaccompanied minors arriving in heathrow airport from nigeria than anyone -- anywhere else. nearly half of all of these are applications from nigeria and people, turned down. arrangements for children in particular have been tightened since the victoria's case. but many feel procedures are not tight and not and britain has failed to enforce checks that other countries would. >> this is my son, my uncle, and this is my nephew. >> in most cases, you believe the relationship is genuine? >> no.
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but they just want somebody to work in the house. >> if the child is traveling without a parent, the u.k. asks for a parental consent form. but in nigeria, filed documents are easy to obtain. as a middleman told us he charged about 130 pounds to get guardianship papers from the court, without the child's parents ever knowing. without consulting the parents at all? >> no. the parents [unintelligible] >> and the court makes no tax at all? >> no. >> @ callbacks no checks at all?
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because they are being paid? should britain use dna to check if the child is related to an accompanying adult, as other countries like italy do? >> my son or my niece or my what ever -- that is very important. italy does it. it is a matter of course. >> but compulsory dna testing is not legal in britain, and so the senior policeman who runs the child protection agency in britain says it rings alarm bells. >> are you suggesting that if they come in with documentation that we should have that job dna tested, relative to that of the person saying they are their parents? >> but even senior nigerians are
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advocating best? >> it would be using a sledgehammer to crack nuts. >> councils are required to be pro-active in investigating cases out informal fostering. it also is a standard that they should know about their own duties. surprisingly, the awareness of the law does not extend to the uk border agency, to the very people most likely to be dealing with children about to be informally fostered. what does one leading child protection campaigner think of that? >> let me just show you. the u.k. b.a. would not normally inform the child -- the adult
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accompanying the child of this law. >> why not? they should. >> what do you think about that? >> then that creates a huge, huge gap in terms of protection. that is a huge job protection issue. that is probably one of the reasons the local authorities are not aware, obviously, and cannot protect the children. >> but the head of the u.k. border agency insists procedures are more than adequate. >> we are not disagreeing about the importance of disseminating information or protecting children. all i am telling you is that we have specifically trained our stop so that they can look for signs of brisk, and then we make -- trained our staff said they can look for signs of a risk, and then we make a determination. >> but many professionals in the field of job protection are shocked you do not do this.
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what harm would it do? it just spread awareness of this lot? >> realistically, it would not reach these people trust it might do so very easily. -- realistically, it would not reach these people -- >> it might do so very easily. >> but our approach would -- >> if you knew. >> let me finish. if an adult is traveling with the child where the relationship between the child and the adult is not clear or communal, we will always ask questions. >> in the backyard of a nigerian agency, they are hurting prisoners.
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there is a sting operation at lagos airport and they have arrested traffickers ready to take two girls out of egypt. it can seem streamlined and proactive compared to britain. godwin once you know why it be uk does not have won a multi- functional agency like his. >> [unintelligible] where else in the uk or their agencies doing the same thing? -- are there agency is doing the same thing? >> the former invisible child simply hopes the system will not
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lose sight of future young immigrants from west africa. >> it is much better to protect them earlier. >> what no one wants is children like these to swap one brutal reality for another, 3,000 miles away. >> and that is all for this week. from all of us here, goodbye. >> hello and welcome. >> see the news unfold. get the top stories from around the globe and click to play video reports. go to to experience the in-depth, expert reporting of "bbc world news" online. >> funding for this presentation is made possible by the freeman foundation of new york, stowe, vermont, and honolulu. newman's own foundation.
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the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation. and union bank. >> union bank has put its financial strength to work for a wide range of companies, from small businesses to major corporations. what can we do for you? >> "bbc newsnight" was
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