When she was nine years old, Marianne came to the UK with the thoughts that she was going to be there all of her life. However, when she became 18, there was a change in everything. Her hopes of a better future is being threatened (as well as for those of 120,000 children who are like her) by a new rule that insists they are deported now, and appeal later which classifies them just as criminals.
Marianne was woken up on one summer morning by a text message. Wearing her white top and skinny jeans, the 19 year old appears and sounds as a normal teenager from south London. However, the message was from a company known as Capita which the government had engaged to crackdown on overstayers of visa. It had told her that a serious offence had been committed by her.
When she was nine years old Marianne came to the United Kingdom. However, it was just when she began to send her applications for university education that she came to realize that she did not possess any of the legal papers she required and was living illegally in the country. The Home Office denied her application to stay back in the United Kingdom last year. Not long after that Capita which has been mandated to get overstayers cracked down on sent her the text message.
As she remembers the message she shudders a little. The message had said: On the system it says that you are in the United Kingdom unlawfully. Kindly give this number a call.
She had thought: can she really be texted like this? She gave the number a call and got talked to like a criminal.
She had said: But she was brought to this place when she was nine. Come on, how serious can they be? Was she being blamed?
Marianne was feeling isolated and scared in the next few weeks because of the onslaught of phonecalls, emails, and texts.
She was in thoughts with herself: now she was required to leave. She was not going to see her friends ever again, or her cousins and her auntie who are the family she has. How was she going to cope in Nigeria? She did not have possess any address that she could use to go to.
She had cried several times. She refused to go outside. She began to feel as if she was being avoided by some of her friends, as if she had been tainted.
Painfully, Marianne knows that whereas she is making efforts to get her immigration status resolved, other young women and men who are in Calais are desperately waiting for their opportunity to safely live and create a fresh life inside the United Kingdom – and all over Europe there are other individuals in positions that are more difficult. She could have more luck than those people. However, she realizes that, when it comes to legal issues, she did not have any additional right to be there than the people who get to risk their lives trying to get across the Channel tunnel.
Meanwhile, the existence of children who are not documented and people who are young in the United Kingdom could become even more uncertain. Based on the Bill on Immigration which was made public this week, people like Marianne and other individuals that are just like she is are going to be facing the same protocols on being deported now, and making appeals afterwards which is presently applicable to criminals who have been convicted and do not have any rights to residency. In other words, immediately they have been denied their applications before they have an opportunity to make an appeal, they are going to get deported. In the law there is no provision to stop the situation from being applied on children that are not accompanied – apart from the Home Office’s assurance.
Enormous disquiet is being caused by the proposal in organizations for children’s rights. Coram Children’s Legal Centre’s legal and policy officer Anita Hurrell stated that the Home Office’s decision – making on immigration had been criticized frequently by numerous committee of the parliament all through the years.
She stated that their worries were that there was not going to be any scrutiny within the country of the decisions which would change the lives and futures of young people and children before they get placed on airplanes.
In 2005 when she arrived in the United Kingdom, Marianne became one of the about 120,000 children who were not documented here. About 50 percent of this figure were not given birth to in the United Kingdom and have stayed longer than their visas. She was arriving from Nigeria to remain with an aunt, who was really a friend of the family. It was an escape that she welcomed away from the violent relationship of her parents, and from school where she was punished physically.
She recalled that she had been very excited. She had been met by her aunt at Heathrow who had come with sweets. And when she arrived at her residence she had met with her cousin who was her age and her sister who was very much younger. Their residence was in an estate in the council; they had barbecues with various families and children were told to go to the park and play by their parents because they felt it was safe. This was what could never happen in Nigeria. Everything here in the UK was a shock to her, but she felt she was safe.
Never again did she get to see her family or parents in Nigeria. She calls her aunt Mother and regards her cousins as her sisters. But years afterwards, when she was making application through Ucas to get into university she came to realize that she did not possess any of the documents for identity which she required to have the forms filled. It is almost two years ever since those initial uneasy glimmerings with regards to her status, and she has a full grasp that the state of Britain could legally take her away from the community and country that is everything she had ever had knowledge about for a decade.
Under the rules of the government, because she was less than 18 years old, Marianne could make a case to remain due to the fact that she had been resident in the country for over seven years.
Hurrell explained that for a lot of the children who were in this sort of situation and not documented, the scenario that was the most likely was going to be to continue to make applications for periods of 30 months for approval to remain. Once there is an approval of four of these consecutively, they can forward their application for indefinite leave to stay. Based on the Legal centre of the Coram Children, if the new charge by the NHS providing migrants that are undocumented access to healthcare that is secondary gets added, the entire fees on application presently would increase to $6,096 all through a period of more than 10 years.
Even though there exist exemptions from fees for kids regarded as facing significant hardship, the idea of having to look for such amounts (especially for multiple children) can stop parents from being capable of starting the process. Now that she is in the age bracket for 18 – 24, Marianne has to provide evidence that she has been there for at least 50 percent of her existence to have the same type of application made.
For such cases and also for children there has not been any legal aid since April 2013. A young practitioner for migrants at the Children’s Society Kalyani McCarthy stated that this was not acceptable when the human rights of children are involved. She stated that they felt strongly that the government must ensure that every child with issues pertaining to immigration got legal assistance for advice. Also there must be broader exemptions for the charges that are paid on application.
McCarthy stated that a lot of the youth that she works with were suffering from depression. In some cases that were extreme, they had had individuals who had self – harmed or who were feeling suicidal about desiring to have their lives ended, because they were feeling very helpless.
She stated that a lot of the youth that she was in work with were either given birth to here or were very young when they were brought to the United Kingdom. She added that they very strongly identified themselves as British, and when they discovered that they were not for them it could be entirely devastating. It was a thing that makes them to become anxious about in an incredible way.
For its part the Home Office acknowledged that having children and families returned was one of the most sensitive and difficult aspects of their work. But they insisted that the revisions in the system were created to make sure that the children’s welfare was at the centre of all the decisions that they made. Also a spokesperson stated that they made use of appeals which were not suspensive to take away those who are inside the United Kingdom illegally more efficiently and quickly, which was why they have made public their plans to extend their authority to have appeals certified as not suspensive to have all appeals on immigration covered, but not including cases on asylum.
Marianne had to borrow money from her friends in order to pay the initial $1,500 to a legal firm that was online for their advice with regards to her application, whose cost was over $600 for it to be submitted to the Home Office. She was also persuading her GP and old school surgeries and friends to write letters of support for her while she was trying to revise for her A-levels.
She said that every day she was crying. It felt as if she did not have any hope. She did not want her education to be affected by anything. However, she explained that her status had to be prioritized. She recalled that during her last examination, she had missed out a complete question on 20 marks.
In spite of the months of disruption and stress she only fell two grades from her expected ABB. However, she did not ever meet face-to-face with her legal representative, and has a feeling that she was abandoned to write and compile her application on her own for a substantial part. She was not able to provide the Home Office with the proof that they needed to make them convinced that she did not have any family in Nigeria to go back to.
It is not surprising that Marianne is criticizing the quality of the advice which she was given by the law firm who were paid an additional $1,500 to request permission to be taken to judicial review. Costing an additional $300 for its submission, this application was equally turned down.
The Islington Law Centre’s immigration solicitor Anna Skehan stated that it is difficult to prove a negative for young people and children who have lost contact with their families or originate from countries where, for instance, they do not always issue death certificates.
She stated that if a lot of proof of a person’s being in the United Kingdom was held by their parents and they had fallen out; or they did not make preparations to have the rest of the family exposed; or a parent was dead and the death was suspicious and the police were holding the evidence then what was to be done by such a person?
She stated that this could leave the youth in circumstances that are dire. In the worst of instances, she stated that a youth who was not documented got raped sleeping in the park when there was no other place for her to go to. She had to eat, so she had to take risks and go to the home of an individual if they told her that she was going to be fed. She had to exchange that for sex.
The government of the United Kingdom has been criticized recently in two reports submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the United Nations where abuses and the undermining of the human rights of migrant children who are not documented were highlighted. The report which was jointly prepared and submitted [pdf download] to the United Nations by all the four of the children’s commissioners of the four nations of the United Kingdom noted the disadvantages to the migrant children’s human rights, education, health, and legal status. In the mean time, organizations in the civil society indicate [pdf download] that an amount of measures which were adopted by government had had an effect which was detrimental on children that were migrants. This comprised of inadequate provision for children who could not access mainstream social security, the tightening of the immigration rules on long residence, the removal of legal assistance for nearly every immigration cases, and a failure to raise levels of asylum support in line with inflation. Due to this, a lot of children who are migrants can suffer from a lifetime of destitution and are at a risk that was higher for exploitation and abuse.
Migrants that are not documented are usually in hiding, afraid and refuse to have their voices raised in any heated debates on immigration. Various languages and ethnicities have equally made collective campaigns by migrants to get their human rights upheld difficult. The most voiceless of all are children who are not documented.
In July, an alternative was presented when Lucas Codognolla and Renata Teodoro came to London. Codognolla was brought to the US from Brazil at the age of nine; Teodoro is a Brazilian migrant who was not documented and has lived in the USA since he was six. They were in the United Kingdom at Paul Hamlyn Foundation to have a workshop run. Their idea was to offer an explanation on how having their stories told has assisted in winning for young migrants unprecedented new rights – and this was in a country which had had two million people deported with no papers in the two terms of office of Barack Obama.
The duo is a segment of United We Dream a network of youth campaigning that is US-wide. the two of them have turned into storytellers that are compelling, getting people encouraged to fight for what they refer to as an injustice that is overwhelming. They give descriptions of families which the state has broken up, siblings and parents deported, and how the first time a youth might ever discover that they do not have any legal rights to reside in a place they have always called home are the terrifying knocks that would be made on their doors by the police.
Lucas stated that by having their stories told, they had been able to create a community, have action taken as a community, and get national policy changed.
Based on their campaigning which has been sustained, comprising of action which was direct by the “Dreamers”, in 2012 a policy referred to as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was introduced by Obama. 1.2 million youth who did not have regular status were protected from deportation by this policy. It also provided them with a work permit that was renewable for two years.
A heady motivator is success. Codognolla stated while grinning that when they realized that they possessed such power they sought for even more. Groups of youth who were not documented challenged main political parties by joining forces. And since then some lawful residents and migrant parents of US citizens have been gotten protection from being deported by the Dreamers.
Codognolla stated that through their work they had been able to revise the narrative surrounding migrants who were not documented in the USA. Last month in the United Kingdom a school leaver who is not documented was granted a right which was qualified to finance for students to have her studies at the university funded by the supreme court. Is it likely that this is a moment that is pivotal for youth without documents to enlist in the debate? Marianne stated that Codognolla and Teodoro had given hope to her.
Hope is needed by Marianne because currently on hold is her life. She cannot attend a university because she does not possess the right to finance for students. She is not permitted to be employed. She is not qualified for benefits. She does not possess any ID, and cannot acquire a bank account, and neither does she have access to social accommodation and, if the government gets to do as it pleases, will soon not be permitted to privately rent as well.
However, she is now one out of a couple of youth who have been able to secure advice that is free from a solicitor who is an expert on immigration with gratitude from the Just for Kids Law organization. The establishment has equally gotten funding secured for a new fee for application, with her aunt having a loan taken out for the rest. Last month her application for leave to stay was taken in.
She used her hands to demonstrate by stretching them wide and stating that the file was so big. Her witness statement was as long as 15 pages. She does not know if it was going to be sufficient. She might be youthful, full of energy and intelligent, but all that is hidden by her status on immigration.
Marianne said that she was not visible. That this was what she felt and that was what she was. She had no control over her existence. There was no difference between her and the individuals in Calais. She wanted to tell David Cameron that they were human beings also. They were breathing the same air, but were being treated so much differently, simply as a result of their being given birth to elsewhere. She asked what had happened to being able to care for each other?