We’re working to ensure children aren’t forgotten in our immigration system
Author: Toby North, National Public Affairs Manager
This week saw the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill pass through the House of Commons. It will shortly make its way to the House of Lords for further debate, with the Government hoping it will become law early in 2022. Because of the Government’s significant majority in the House of Commons, the bill will almost certainly pass. But what does this mean for those who need protection, like children?
The Government’s stated aim for the Nationality and Borders Bill is to make the immigration system fairer and more efficient, whilst being strict on illegal immigration and tackling people smuggling. But we believe there is so much in the bill that will make the system much worse for children — removing hard won protections and putting them at greater risk of exploitation and abuse.
The United Kingdom has a long history of offering sanctuary to children and young people fleeing war, persecution or exploitation. Children currently make up almost 25% of those seeking asylum in the UK, with many of them coming to our country scared and alone. Yet despite this, the rights and well-being of children are forgotten.
Children currently make up almost 25% of those seeking asylum in the UK
As a charity, we have a long and proud history of working with and for refugee and migrant children. We are extremely concerned that elements of the Nationality and Borders Bill threaten to make it more difficult for those children who have come to our shores for protection to be happy, safe and secure.
That’s why we’ve been working hard with parliamentarians and our partners in the charity sector to ensure that the needs and rights of children are at the forefront of the debate on this important legislation.
We have been trying to exempt children from proposed measures which mean that evidence submitted late, or not within a short, specified period, cannot be considered in support of a claim for asylum. These measures are particularly problematic for children, who we know find it hard to disclose things that have happened to them at the outset. This is not due to any weakness in their claims, but rather the impacts of the journeys they endured and the consequent trauma they have faced, as well sometimes as a direct result of poor initial legal representation.
We’ve also been advocating for children to be exempt from planned changes to modern slavery legislation. The Government wants to make these changes to create a “firm but fair” system and reduce opportunities for the system to be misused. But a fairer system would afford child victims of modern slavery greater, not fewer, protections than those which currently exist. We are worried that proposed changes will make it more difficult for children- whether they are British citizens or not- who are victims of exploitation to be identified and kept safe.
As the bill works its way through Parliament, we will continue to work to safeguard the rights of children in our immigration system.