Since 2016 GMIAU has represented a significant number of children who passed through the camp in Calais on their way to the UK. The children we represent arrived in the North West because they either entered the UK through an EU Regulation called Dublin III (which allows children with certain categories of family member in the UK to be reunited); under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, also known as the Dubs Amendment (which allows categories of particularly vulnerable unaccompanied children to be transferred to the UK); or on their own, for example by hiding in a lorry through the Eurotunnel.
Children from Calais
As a result of our work we believe
- The UK must protect children from trafficking and exploitation by establishing safe and accessible legal routes to the UK for children claiming asylum
- Every child claiming asylum in the UK should have access to an immigration lawyer throughout their asylum claim
- Children seeking asylum in the UK should have financial support and social work assistance regardless of how they entered the UK.
Young people arrive in the UK, often without documentation. Some have never had any form of ID, birth certificate or similar document in their country of birth, some were unable to bring it as a result of having to flee their home suddenly fearing for their safety. Unlike in the UK where we celebrate the birthdays routinely, this does not happen in all countries with little significance being paid to dates of birth or sometimes even age.
One young person confused by the process of having his age challenged told us:
“I am here fleeing for my life and they are worried about a date which meant nothing in Afghanistan.”
These young people arrive in the UK to seek sanctuary however for many of those supported by GMIAU when they arrive they have their age disputed.
Some of the young people who contact us have been age assessed as an adult and dispersed in adult asylum accommodation in the North West. When we support them in challenging the decision on their age we are often faced with a conflict as to which local authority is most appropriate to do the re-assessment – the original local authority or the local authority where they now live.
Struck by the ambiguity over what happens in these circumstances, and the absence of young people’s voices in decision-making, we have used funding from the Strategic Legal Fund to carry out research on the position in guidance, case law and practice. We are now exploring policy, strategic litigation and best practice tools to push for clarity.
Children in Care and Care Leavers
There are gaps in the quality of care received by too many looked after children because of their immigration status. Social workers do not consistently understand the additional support needs non-British children have and can misinterpret a child’s immigration status as limiting responsibilities for them. For some children this means that opportunities to regularise their immigration status are missed (with life-long consequences) and that when living in care, or leaving care, they do not receive the support they are entitled to. In some cases it means children are wrongly assessed as adults and are not supported as children at all.
In Greater Manchester many children with insecure immigration status living in or leaving care have claimed asylum. But looked after children and care leavers can also experience problems accessing the support they need if they have EU citizenship, if their permission to be in the UK is only temporary, or if they have no official permission to be in the UK.
With funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation we are working to help bridge the gaps in support these children receive. We are generating opportunities for young people in our All4One group to advocate themselves for the type of support they think is needed, we are working with Children’s Services so that there is an agreed standards framework that reflects these needs, and we are offering training to relevant social work professionals to confidently deliver support that meets these standards.
Young people from our All4One youth group have written #SixThings. It’s their ‘how to’ guide for local authority staff and others about the support they need as young people in care affected by immigration control.All those who wrote it are on their own in the UK, seeking asylum and living in Greater Manchester with foster carers or in supported lodgings. It starts: ‘We are experienced and brave. We have big dreams for our futures. We want to make positive change so that young people in our situation have the best care possible.’ Here are the “Six Things” they want you to know.
They are asking children’s services and other voluntary and statutory support organisations in Greater Manchester to support the principles behind “Six Things”. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Brexit and Immigration Changes
We have also been focusing on the needs of children in care and care leavers affected by Brexit immigration changes. We have written a briefing on the issue as well as guidance for local authorities on how to best support the children and young people they look after. Based on our experience providing legal advice in Greater Manchester we have written a report with recommendations of the joined up actions needed from central and local government if the ‘EU generation’ in care are not going to end up exposed to the Hostile Environment.