The UK’s commitment to the Refugee Convention was undermined last year with the Nationality and Borders Act, and this new proposal goes further. It effectively puts a fence up around the UK’s asylum system, with no way in for children and young people seeking safety.
Children who come to the UK with their families will be locked out of having their rights heard. Worse still, they may now also be detained, rowing back on the coalition government’s commitment to ending child detention.
Punishment will be meted out on future generations too, with babies born from today unable to become British citizens in the normal ways – an unheard of change to the way our nationality law works, all in the name of penalising babies and children for their parent trying to seek safety here.
Even a child who comes all alone to the UK will be shut out of the asylum system and in a waiting game until the government tries to send them to another country once they reach 18. That child may be denied care under the Children Act 1989, as the Home Office seeks powers to accommodate them in hotels, from which hundreds have already gone missing – a national scandal. This undermines the country’s well-established and respected child protection framework and usurps the powers properly vested in social workers. Unbelievably, the Home Office is now also saying it wants to put lone refugee and trafficked children not just in hotels, but in detention too.
As the government shirks the nation’s responsibility to the world’s refugees, it points to safe and legal routes, but creates them for just a tiny proportion of people from a tiny proportion of countries.
And where will the Home Office send the thousands of people locked out of the UK asylum system? In the first year and three quarters of the Home Office having tried this so-called inadmissibility scheme, just 21 people were removed. That’s one per month.
Refugee and trafficked children need safety and certainty to recover and rebuild their lives. Instead, we see a system set up to leave child lives in limbo.