The boy, of eight years old, used to come to school having not eaten and it was obvious he had no care at home…he said he was living with relatives whose children hated him, and he had to look after himself. The boy was left to get his own breakfast and find his way to school. He was poorly dressed despite the cold, and frequently ill.
Such was the description of the life of a young Somali boy in London, provided by a London teacher to the author of the report, A Gap In their Hearts. The report explains how Somali parents, in Somalia, often pay agents money to take their children to a variety of western European countries, often unaccompanied by a family member (Hannan, 2003, p6).
According to Hannan the children who are sent to London are often taken on by people, who are either relatives of the child, or who claim to be relatives of the child. In many cases the child is neglected by the family, who use them to claim benefits but do not care for them and do no spend the benefits on the child. According to Hannan (2003, p35),
Concerned members of the diaspora say the Somali community abroad turns a blind eye to this practice, either because it is useful for claiming benefits or out of shame that it is being done – or through fear that exposing it might threaten legitimate benefits. One Somali teacher in London said children exploited for benefit were a visible “underclass” in the community.