Undocumented children are forced into destitution because of the policies on immigration that encourage an environment of hostility.
When she was four years old, Linda came to the UK from Nigeria in order to be with her mother. The visa with which she made her trip was a visa for visitors, just like the one her mum used, and as a result as a child she turned into an overstayer. When she was 12, Linda’s mother died and initially extended family members took care of her, by being passed around from one aunty to the other. None of them ever realized that Linda possessed no UK status.
When she was 18 Linda had to leave her last home because of the abusive nature of the partner to her aunt. She had no entitlement to social services support as a child, and had no access to work or benefits. She was homeless. The only way out for Linda was to make an application to the Home Office on the basis of her length of stay in the United Kingdom, but her understanding of the law was vague, the process of application had complications and she did not possess money to hire a solicitor for immigration who could have made it for her.
Finally Linda was given a reference to the Coram Children’s Legal Centre’s Project on Migrant Children, where she was able to get assistance, which was free of charge, and ensure that her status could be regularized and her future well planned.
The case of Linda is not unusual. A research study by University of Oxford estimates that there exist about 120,000 migrant children who are undocumented in the UK, of which 65,000 were given birth to in this country.
These children who reside in the United Kingdom without usual status on immigration are usually not able to make any progress in education nor do they have access to basic social rights like support and healthcare because of their immigration status, which makes their vulnerability extreme and sometimes exposing them to poverty that is extreme.
In a similar vein, they are usually not able to undergo the required processes to get their status regularized, even if they possess strong and valid claims for staying in the UK.
This could be as a result of their being unaware of their options within the law in a very complicated system of immigration, legal advice that is unavailable or inadequate, or Home Office application fees that are prohibitive. In some situations, they face a risk if they attempted to go back to their county of nationality. As a consequence, children who are “unreturnable” and young people who have become in their communities settled residents for a long-term are left in uncertainty.
Public debate about immigration has resulted in a policy that is based on the idea that by creating for migrants such as Linda an environment that is hostile would be an effective means of persuading them to go, which is a belief that what attracts migrants to the UK is the generosity of Britain to them.
The previous couple of years have already shown the increase the levels of asylum support being refused because of inflation, legal assistance for many cases of immigration being removed, immigration rules on residences that are long being tightened, access to housing that is private being restricted, and severe restrictions to accessibility to healthcare now being proposed.
It was noted in opposition in 2008 by Ian Duncan Smith MP that the government as at then was making use of forced destitution as a way of encouragement for persons to voluntarily leave the country and that this policy’s failure was caused by the thesis, which was clearly false, that they were encouraging people to leave simply by showing their nastiness. In 2012, the Select Committee of Education stated that it was going to be outrageous if destitution was to be utilized as a weapon against kids because of their status on immigration. However, as 2015 approaches, the risk is still there.
In a 2013 report documenting the experience and research of the Coram Children’s Legal Centre: “Growing in an environment of hostility: undocumented kids rights in the United Kingdom”, reveals that such an approach to policy was having an impact that was damaging and significant on the UK children, forcing many of them into poverty.
And in addition to the result on children, a lot of the revisions implemented as an agenda of this agenda on environmental hostility have caused a shift in costs and responsibility onto local authorities that are already over-stretched, but who are actually the last safety net available for people who are desperate and destitute. For instance, a family that is homeless and with children have to resort to their local authorities if they are without homes, which places the resources of the local under increasing pressure.
The Home Office has been receiving prolonged calls to make a provision of a system of immigration that was effective and robust, one which incentivizes rules compliance. But historical failures must be tackled by such a system and those who possessed claims for staying in the UK which were strong could be properly dealt with instead of the waste of precious resources in an attempt to enforce actions that are clearly violating rights that are established and in the interest which are best for young people and children. This comprises children who go to school after growing up in the UK, and have the feelings that they are British.
In the United Kingdom, undocumented young people and children are not only very vulnerable but also face great risks of exceptional destitution and poverty. A system of immigration that is effective and fair would be the one that ensures that these children rights are upheld.