Migrant Children in Care Face an Immigration System Rigged Against Them

, by Aaron Gates-Lincoln

Migrant Children in Care Face an Immigration System Rigged Against Them

The track record of the UK government on ensuring migrants are awarded access to all the rights they deserve and are entitled to is not one to hold in high regard. It is now being expected that, as a result of Brexit, another group of migrants are going to be robbed of their chance at life in the UK due to systems rigged against their favour.

It is being estimated that thousands of children of EU nationals who are now in the UK care system are going to be put at risk by flaws in the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme, introduced after Brexit, allows EU citizens to apply to receive indefinite leave to remain status within the UK. For children in care, applications for the scheme must be submitted by the local authority in which they are situated.

However, a Freedom of Information request by the Children’s Society has found that so far, fewer than 40% of the 3700 or so eligible children in care that are known of have had their applications submitted. Numbers could be significantly higher than this, as many local authorities do not keep nationality data for children in care. With the deadline for applications now less than 3 months away, this is extremely worrying for the immigration security of this group of vulnerable children.

To exacerbate the anxiety surrounding these numbers, it is not clear what the impacts of not submitting an application could have on these children. Concerns are being raised that the issue could mirror that of the Windrush scandal, in which thousands of Commonwealth citizens were wrongly detained and deported due to problems surrounding documentation. With this in mind, it could be expected that these children in care may only discover their unlawful status in the future when applying for housing or employment, and be put at risk of deportation by the Home Office.

It has become clear that the EU Settlement Scheme has emerged as a covert element of the UK government’s hostile environment policies. Children in care having to rely on others to submit applications for something that should be an automatic right is the harsh reality of current immigration policy. The government itself has ignored calls from MPs to fast-track children in care through the process, instead opting to put the pressure on local authorities to handle applications despite it being evident that they are struggling to cope.

It is also unjust that the government has encouraged local authorities to place children in care on this immigration track. Evidence has shown that for children of EU nationals in care, most, if not all, could have the right to citizenship. Instead, the children are placed on a scheme that would offer them nowhere near the same number of rights and entitlements; and that is for the lucky ones who actually have their applications submitted.

It is vital that this group of children are given the opportunity to gain the citizenship that they are entitled to. Children born in the UK, who have parents with settled status, or have lived the first 10 years of their life there, have the right to register to be a citizen. The Home Secretary also has a discretionary power to grant any child citizenship when it is evident that their future lies in the UK, like if they are taken into the care system for example.

In most cases, children in care are not directed down this pathway, due to extortionate citizenship fees. For each application, local authorities would have to pay £1000 to the Home Office, £640 of which is direct profit. In addition, there are often fears that the lack of required information regarding the child’s parents’ immigration status will result in a failed application and therefore preventing one from ever being submitted. Due to current laws, if children in care are not put on the citizenship pathway before the age of 18, they will lose their right to citizenship when they reach this age.

It is obvious that this system is rigged against children in care, and has no acknowledgment of their best interest. The recent apologies for the Windrush scandal seem empty when it becomes clear that the government is setting up another generation of immigrants to be subject to the same injustices. It is vital that local authorities are pressured to ensure that all eligible children in care have their applications submitted for the EU Settlement Scheme. However, it is equally important that the government is pressured to change the law, and give migrant children in care the lifelong right to apply for citizenship.

Here are some petitions to sign that may be helpful: Here are some petitions to sign that may be helpful: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/564011 https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/582742

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