Calais children need a lawyer: social workers in contact with children from the Calais camp must make sure they have access to an immigration lawyer.

Which children are we talking about?

Small numbers of children from the camp in Calais are coming to the UK because they have family members here or because they are particularly vulnerable. Some of these children have family members in the North West. Children will arrive either under an EU regulation called Dublin III (if they have family members in the UK) or because of the ‘Dubs Amendment’, also called section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 (if the children are on their own and assessed as meeting certain criteria).

What is happening now?

Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit is working with children in the North West who have come from the Calais camp. We provide them with free legal advice and representation. Through this work we also support their family members (where the children have been reunited) and assist their social workers. In our experience many social workers do not understand these children’s immigration status or that the children need to claim asylum. Crucially, many social workers tell us they did not know that every child needs an immigration lawyer. We have also found that some families are unaware that the children have to claim asylum or that they can have free legal help to do so. As a result, too many children are not receiving advice and representation from an immigration lawyer when they need it.

Why do the children need a lawyer?

Quality advice and representation from the beginning of the application process is vital if a child is to make their best asylum claim. In many cases legal help can be the difference between a child’s claim being successful or not. If a child’s asylum claim is successful they will be recognised as a refugee and the child can go on to access mainstream welfare benefits, higher education and employment opportunities, and eventually apply for British citizenship. If their claim is refused, the support they are entitled to will be significantly reduced and when they are older they may be removed from the UK.

How should the children get a lawyer?

Children who have come from the Calais camp to claim asylum in the UK should normally be eligible for legal aid to pay for a lawyer during their asylum claim. This means that the child and their family should not have to pay for legal help. The Legal Aid Agency is the body that funds lawyers through legal aid to provide these services. They fund lawyers in the North West to provide free immigration advice and representation. Lists of these legal aid immigration lawyers are available from Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit or from the Legal Aid Agency.

Whose responsibility is it to make sure the children have a lawyer?

It is the duty of the social worker supporting any child from the Calais camp to make sure that they have an immigration lawyer. Having access to an immigration lawyer is in the best interests of these children. It should not be assumed that the Home Office or the Legal Aid Agency will automatically allocate a lawyer for these children when they come to the UK. It must be part of a social worker’s assessment of what is in the best interests of the child to take all necessary steps to ensure they are connected to an immigration lawyer.

What should I do?

If you are working with a child from Calais who has come to the UK, then contact the Legal Aid Agency or one of the legal aid lawyers on its list in Greater Manchester. Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit is one of the organisations of legal aid lawyers in the North West providing advice and representation to children from Calais. If you are not sure whether a child is eligible for legal aid, then contact Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit for advice on the best thing to do.