Undocumented and migrant children: British but not quite
Imagine only really knowing life in one country, but being excluded from the same rights as your friends because of your immigration status.
By now, most people will have heard of Windrush, and know something about the deplorable treatment of those of Caribbean origin who had entered the country legally, but were later rendered undocumented or irregular in immigration status. As a result of the Hostile Environment policy, many were then deported or threatened. The plight of the undocumented and those unable to regularise their immigration status has not ceased, and it is now estimated that there are over 130,000 young people with irregular immigration statuses in London. Reasons for this include unaffordable fees for filing immigration paperwork, cuts on legal aid, and extremely stringent policies on regularisation.
A BBC News article told the stories of young people whose immigration status prevented them for applying for student finance or even just applying to universities. These young people had moved to the UK at young ages, assimilated, made British friends, and then realised that they could not access the same educational opportunities. Not having lived in the UK for a long enough period of time, even if just by a few months, is the deciding factor of whether a capable young person can attend university. This increases any marginalisation that may already exist, as the opportunity to gain further training or improve their circumstances is on hold until these young people can obtain Leave to Remain. Young people who only know the UK as their home face great difficulties in going to university, opening bank accounts, or even renting somewhere to live, which most people in the UK take for granted. No country can thrive if this many young people are excluded from the workforce. No society can thrive if there is such a stark division between two groups of people, who, for all intents and purposes, only differ in place of birth and a legal designation provided by the government.
Another obstacle for many migrants is No Recourse to Public Funds (“NRPF”), which dictates that any migrants with this condition applied to their visa is prohibited from accessing many publicly funded services, such as some healthcare services (without paying) and many state welfare benefits. This leaves many migrant children in dire circumstances, and even more vulnerable than they may otherwise be. Migrants are already isolated from society, without being in a form of limbo through not being able to take many jobs and then also not being to access state benefits. Children from these households, who do not know life outside of this country, therefore start their lives at a considerable disadvantage, compared to their peers from households with citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain. Though it may be necessary to have some citizenship regulation, this goes far beyond the standard immigration control. Tolerant, diverse societies are better than this.
The current stringent and extortionately priced immigration system takes away many opportunities from young migrants, and especially migrant children, that those with whom they have grown up can easily obtain. Not having access to public funds when necessary, or easily being able to gain an education or become financially independent creates a cycle of marginalisation and isolation into which innocent children are born or unwittingly brought. We should do our utmost to support migrant and marginalised groups. At JAN Trust, we understand the importance of this fight, and work to help our beneficiaries navigate life in the UK. We support young people from marginalised and isolated communities, so that these individuals can take control and improve their lives.