Coram Children’s Legal Centre has raised concerns around the welfare of thousands of children unable to secure a permanent immigration status in the UK warning that it leads them at risk of exploitation.
The report, ‘This is my home,’ highlights the fate of hundreds of thousands of children and young people who, despite having been brought up in the UK, are trapped in precarious situations because they are unable to secure permanent status in the UK.
The report highlights the impact that having an uncertain immigration status has on a child.
There are around 120,000 children in the UK classed as ‘undocumented,’ although 65,000 of those were born here. Yet without documentation, a young person cannot work, open a bank account or access sources of support such as housing, and is cut off from further education.
The Coram Children’s Legal Centre warns that this leaves these children vulnerable to poverty and at risk of exploitation.
Yet a lack of free and quality legal representation, unaffordable application fees with very limited fee waivers, and complex law and policy prove obstacles to children achieving permanent status, the report confirms.
The report’s author and CCLC’s Head of Policy and Programmes, Kamena Dorling, said: “Thousands of undocumented children and young people will have grown up in the UK, have been educated here, and will think of themselves as British. Even if they manage to make an immigration application, they will usually only be granted two and a half years leave and will have to wait ten years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain.
“During this period they have to make five further applications, and face over £8,000 in fees and charges, while living in a state of insecurity. They are prevented from legally participating in and contributing to the communities in which they live and, in many cases have lived, all their lives,” Dorling added.
‘This is my home’ calls for an urgent review of children and young people’s needs for legal services and at least the reinstatement of legal aid for separated children’s immigration status. It urges a shorter route to permanent status for long resident children and young people and lower application fees.
The report calls for better Home Office decision making on children and young peoples’ long residence cases in line with established law and urges training and designated social care leads in local authorities to ensure better information for social workers and improved local authority practice.