• Summary: This article draws on research with young people affected by immigration controls (Jones, 1998), other studies and relevant literature to examine the conditions and treatment of children and young people who seek asylum in the UK. • Findings: The findings highlight the detention and impoverishment of young asylum seekers and inadequacies in local authority provisions as evidence of discriminatory treatment. The author argues that contradictions between law and policy relating to children and those concerned with immigration control, negative social constructions of ‘refugee’ and ‘immigrant’ and the masking of social inequalities in dominant discourses of children’s rights are factors which contribute to this situation. • Applications: The focus of current child care policy within the UK is to improve the quality and consistency of services to children in need, to improve outcomes for children looked after (children separated from birth parents) and to eradicate child poverty. The challenge for social work is to extend this concern to children affected by immigration controls. The author suggests that social workers have a major part to play in reclaiming and revisioning children’s rights as a more inclusive concept in order to address the impact of structural inequality and discrimination on the achievement of rights. Although arising from work in the UK, the findings are more widely applicable in that the need for harmonization of domestic legislation with international agreements is highlighted and in the appeal for a rights-based approach to social work.