Report published by the Coram Children’s Legal Centre finds tougher immigration stance is denying children basic rights.
The children of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are having their lives made a misery by the government in an effort to put others off coming to the UK, according to a damning new report backed by former minister Sarah Teather.
They are being denied access to their basic rights and assistance to attain legal status in the UK, it is claimed. A proposed immigration bill, the report adds, will introduce further restrictions to these children’s options by asking schools, GPs and landlords to monitor the immigration status of people they come into contact with.
The government is accused by the report’s authors of trying to create a hostile environment for the children of what they describe as undocumented migrants, as well as the parents, as a way of encouraging more to leave and dissuade others from coming.
The report, Growing Up in a Hostile Environment: The Rights of Undocumented Migrant Children in the UK, published by the Coram Children’s Legal Centre, finds that this tougher stance is having a “significant and damaging impact” on children in the UK.
Undocumented migrant children are not entitled to a post-16 education; their families are not allowed social housing; they are often forced into the hands of rogue landlords and exploitative relationships. Financial support has been withdrawn from such families following the government’s local authority spending cuts; and, despite often having strong claims, leave to remain application fees of up to £1,000 and a lack of legal representation under the legal aid reforms condemn such children to live in the shadows.
Teather, a Liberal Democrat MP who was children’s minister until 2012 but recently announced that she was leaving parliament at the next general election, has thrown her support behind the report’s call for action.
The MP for Brent Central, who on announcing her resignation revealed that she no longer felt that the party led by Nick Clegg fights sufficiently for social justice and liberal values on immigration, said the government needed to urgently rethink its priorities.
“The UK is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the rights of children must be respected, regardless of their immigration status,” she said. “However, this report shows that current immigration policies are having a damaging impact on a group of very vulnerable children.
“I am extremely concerned that rather than trying to improve the ways in which we support these children, the government’s proposals will instead make the UK a more hostile place for them to grow up in.
“How we, as a country, treat children is a good measure of our values as a society, and we are currently failing to live up to the high standards that we rightly would set ourselves.”
The report provides a series of case studies of young people who through no fault of their own are having their lives marred, including those who have only ever known this country as their home.
One four-year-old, born in the UK, who had attended his local nursery and was subsequently enrolled in reception class, had his place taken away after his father was discovered to be working illegally, it is reported.
A 16-year-old originally from India, whose family had lived in the UK for 10 years, and repeatedly attempted to regularise their immigration status, was prevented from studying for A-levels despite doing very well in her GCSEs, it finds.
A Ugandan mother, who came to this country on a student visa, but who fell pregnant with a daughter who now suffers from sickle cell anaemia, was offered no accommodation by her local authority while she applied for leave to remain. She was instead offered a ticket to return to Uganda and a place in care for her daughter.
The report draws on evidence from CCLC’s Migrant Children’s Project free legal advice line, which has experienced almost a 100% increase in calls from April-September 2013 following the withdrawal of legal aid for immigration cases.
Kamena Dorling, the author of the report, said: “Over half of the estimated 120,000 undocumented migrant children in the UK were born here. Many have lived here for their entire childhood. Despite having strong legal claims to remain in the country and being long-term residents of our communities, in practice they are left in a precarious situation without access to basic social rights.”
See on www.theguardian.com