Children and young people face new harm from the Nationality and Borders Act

Coram Children’s Legal Centre warns that the Nationality and Borders Act, which received Royal Assent and has become law today, risks compounding harm to a significant number of children and young people as it departs from long-standing principles of international law as well as existing safeguarding frameworks in the UK.

The Act has faced innumerable challenges from civil society, social work bodies, the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium, the House of Lords and medical experts, many of whom put forward workable alternative solutions on a number of issues. Despite this, the Act has been passed virtually unchanged from its first appearance.

The Act will put children and young people at greater risk of being exploited and trafficked, both within the UK and abroad.

The creation of a ‘two-tier’ asylum system according to how people arrive in the UK will damage the ability of refugee families to care for their children in the UK. Plans to remove asylum seekers from the UK to have their asylum claims decided ‘off-shore’ will place many at serious risk of harm, not least children whose ages are disputed. Meanwhile plans to create a national body to assess age threatens to weaken the care we provide to looked after children by undermining the credibility and expertise of social workers.

A significant number of parts of it are already being challenged because they conflict with or undermine other laws in the UK and internationally. This conflict will in itself cause further delay to children and young people seeking protection in the UK.

Carol Homden CBE, CEO of Coram, said:

Children depend upon society to care, and those seeking safety from conflict or persecution, whether from Afghanistan, Ukraine or anywhere else, deserve our equal protection no matter how they come to be in the UK. Coram will always press for children’s rights to be upheld by the authorities who are responsible for protecting them, and for children’s best interests and welfare to be paramount.

Rosalyn Akar Grams, Managing Director of Legal Practice and Children’s Rights at CCLC, said:

This is the most regressive piece of immigration legislation I have seen during my 20 years in refugee law. It represents a derogation from our duties under international law including the Refugee Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  As the Act is implemented, we will continue to work for the rights of children, young people and families arriving to seek protection and to insist that children’s best interests are at the heart of the decisions which govern their lives.

Read more about our policy challenges to uphold the rights of refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant children here.