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Report examines plight of children brought up in the UK who are unable to secure regular immigration status

Date of Publication: 
29 June 2017
Summary: 

Coram Children's Legal Centre report finds lack of legal aid and quality legal representation

Report examines plight of children brought up in the UK who are unable to secure regular immigration status

29 June 2017
EIN

Coram Children's Legal Centre (CCLC) on Monday released a new report examining the plight of children and young people who have been brought up in the UK, but are unable to secure permanent immigration status.

You can read the 34-page report, 'This is my home': Securing permanent status for long-term resident children and young people in the UK, here.

According to the report, there are believed to be tens of thousands of children and young people in the UK with no legal immigration status, many whom were born in the UK or have lived here for most of their lives.

CLCC says many will only engage with the issues of their immigration status when forced to by another crisis point in their lives, such as separation from family, losing their housing, or when they try to access entitlements to which they do not have an automatic right, such as employment or further or higher education.

A lack of legal aid and quality legal representation means, however, that such young people will often face insurmountable barriers when they attempt to secure permanent status.

The report states: "They have no other 'home' and they belong in the UK. However, while there do exist both immigration and nationality routes for them to regularise their status, at present these are far too difficult to access and realise in practice. They have increasingly been made stricter, with no legal aid available to get legal advice or representation since 2013. If a child or young person makes an application based on how long they have lived in the UK and the life they have built here, they must contend with hugely complex rules and ever-changing law. If their application is accepted, they are granted just two and a half years' leave. They are still ten years away from being granted indefinite leave to remain, requiring five applications costing at least £8,269 in fees and upfront charges alone before they have secure and permanent status."

According to the report, the levels of unmet need for legal aid and advice are extremely high. CCLC's own outreach legal advice service in Hackney and Haringey found that even when it could secure exceptional legal aid case funding, it can take over a month to find a solicitor to take on the case because there is such a shortage of legal providers.

Legal advisers, even if available, are frequently not child-focused and fail to provide information in an accessible way, with poor legal advice ‘prolonging the undocumented status of young people’, the report adds.

CLCC makes a number of recommendations in the report, including that there needs to be an urgent review of children and young people's needs for legal services and at least the reinstatement of legal aid for separated children's immigration cases.

The report also recommends that there should be a shorter route to permanent status for long-resident children and young people and lower application fees, and recommends a change to the policy on granting citizenship to long-term residents of the UK so that children are not arbitrarily excluded on 'good character'.

CCLC says that as Brexit negotiations commence, and we wait to fully understand the fate of EU children and families in the UK, it is more important than ever to ensure that children and young people who have grown up here are able to have secure status and build their futures in this country.