Children in care and migrants are two of the most vulnerable groups of people residing within the UK. However, a new light has been shone on the difficulties that migrant children living within the care system in the UK are due to face as a result of the EU Settlement Scheme.
It is being estimated that thousands of children of EU nationals who are now in the UK care system are going to be put at risk by flaws in the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The scheme, introduced after Brexit, allows EU citizens to apply to receive indefinite leave to remain status within the UK. For children in care, applications for the scheme must be submitted by the local authority in which they are situated in.
However, a Freedom of Information request by the Children’s Society has found that so far, fewer than 40% of the 3700 or so eligible children in care that are known of have had their applications submitted. As many local authorities do not keep nationality data for their children in care, it may be that these numbers could be significantly higher. With the deadline for applications nearing, this is extremely worrying for the immigration security of this group of vulnerable children.
To exacerbate the anxiety surrounding these numbers, it is not clear how not submitting an application may impact these children. Concerns are being raised that the issue could mirror that of the Windrush scandal, in which thousands of Commonwealth citizens were wrongly detained and deported due to problems surrounding documentation. With this in mind, it could be estimated that the group will apply for housing or employment in the future and only then discover their unlawful status. As Katherine Sacks-Jones, the chief executive of ‘Become.’, a charity for children in care, has stated, “We risk leaving thousands of children undocumented- storing up huge problems as they leave care- already a challenging time”.
In response to this, the Children’s Society have called on local authorities to “recognise the corporate responsibility for ensuring no looked after child or care leavers find themselves without lawful status in the UK after 30th June 2021”. For this to occur, they stated it is vital that the Home Office “support and resource local government bodies to continue identifying children in their care who must secure status through the EUSS”.
It is also unjust that local authorities have been encouraged by the government to place children in care on this immigration track. Evidence has shown that for children of EU nationals in care, most, if not all, could have the rights to citizenship. However, they are often not placed on the citizenship pathway due to extortionate application fees of £1000 that local authorities are required to pay, £640 of which is direct profit to the Home Office.
This is incredibly worrying as due to current laws, if children in care are not put on the citizenship pathway before the age of 18, they will lose their right to citizenship when they reach this age.
The system that children in care are subject to is obviously rigged against them, and is designed to work against their best interests. Children having to rely on others to submit applications for something that should be an automatic right is the harsh reality of current immigration policy. It is vital that local authorities are pressured to ensure that all eligible children in care have their applications submitted for the EU Settlement Scheme or are placed on citizenship pathways.
Here are some petitions to sign that may be helpful:
Here is some further reading on the topic: