17 May 2021
The Children’s Law Centre has raised alarm at the UK Government’s New Plan for Immigration and the impact it will have by curtailing children’s rights, placing vulnerable children in extreme danger. The alarm was raised after the Home Office consulted on the new plan and measures were announced in the Queen’s speech.
Immigration lawyers at the Children’s Law Centre say the plans water down child protection safeguards, place children at increased risk of exploitation and trample on devolved matters.
Speaking after hearing confirmation of new measures in the Queens’ Speech, an immigration solicitor from the Children’s Law Centre, Maria McCloskey said: “The proposed New Plan for Immigration creates a two-tier immigration system that will put vulnerable and traumatised children in harm’s way by sending a horse and cart through children’s rights and protections. It runs contrary to important obligations under international law, tramples on domestic laws and encroaches on devolved issues in Northern Ireland.
“The general tone and intent of the sweeping changes is deeply concerning. There is a well-established international framework for providing sanctuary and security to asylum seekers and the UK Government is proposing a seismic shift away from this. The continued assertion that routes are illegal, when it is well established that this is in fact contrary to the Refugee Convention is troubling. There is also a constant effort to attribute criminality to a group of people who are in fact the victims of criminality. There is no such thing as a good and bad refugee, just people fleeing for safety.
“At the Children’s Law Centre, we provide legal assistance to the majority of separated children and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who arrive in Northern Ireland. We are talking about very traumatised, scared and vulnerable children. Under these new rules they would be treated as a separate and secondary tier of asylum seeker, by refusing to grant them full refugee status and the ability to remain in the UK. We have no doubt the changes will put them at increased risk of exploitation, act as a barrier to protection and add significant trauma to an already challenging process.
“Instead of placing children in more danger, the Home Office should be looking at ways to improve rights protections for children. They should be working on ways to provide legal routes for family reunification, ensuring primary decision making is improved, and making decisions that are lawful in the first instance. If tackling people smuggling is the aim, then provide safe and legal routes for asylum seekers.
“Children should not be punished for their nationality or immigration status. They should be protected from harm.”