Migrant children suffering after years of spending cuts

child refugees

Unaccompanied migrant children in the UK are struggling after years of harsh spending cuts the Children’s Society has warned.

In a new report, the charity highlights the decision of the then-government to exclude migrant children from legal aid – only refugees who have applied for asylum are eligible. This has meant that children who enter the UK alone and end up in local authority care after trafficking, abandonment or loss of their parents must fund their own legal cases or rely on free advice from immigration lawyers working on a ‘pro bono’ basis. The number providing this service has fallen dramatically, however: by no less than 50 per cent over the last four years.

A few succeed in applications for discretionary ‘exceptional case funding’ from the Home Office, which was established as a safety net for the most vulnerable. But just 15 such applications were made between 2015 and 2016, less than one per cent of the 2,490 applications made in the year before the legal aid cuts.

The application process for exceptional case funding is so complex that legal advice is really required – but children who need the funding have no access to such advice, other than via pro bono assistance.

Even the successful applicants then have to contend with the administration fees imposed by the Home Office, which have more than doubled in the last four years and can now exceed £2,000.

Legal aid for migrant children must be reintroduced the charity claimed, and administration fees and other surcharges should be waived as well they said.

Policy Director Sam Royston explained:

“Expecting extremely vulnerable children and young people to find their way through complex legal problems on their own is unreasonable and cruel. Cut off from crucial help with legal costs and with Home Office application fees soaring, vulnerable children are finding themselves in impossible situations, with nowhere left to turn. As they struggle to find a way to pay, they are at serious risk of exploitation.”

Read Cut off from Justice here.

Photo by olle svensson via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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2 comments

James Franklin - August 21, 2017 at 2:45pm

Whilst I have sympathy for anyone fleeing tyrany, war or enviromental disaster one must look at this using sensible eyes.

Where a child has clearly and irrefutably been traffiked to UK shores, then the social care system has a duty of care to be responsible for them, however, where these youngsters have serious questions over thier origins and status the nation has a duty of care to the legitimate in need (comment above) and its own citizens to ensure limited resources are used correctly and not taken advantage of.

Where the state has determined a need to care for these children I cannot see what recourse they would have to legal aid.

spinner - August 21, 2017 at 5:57pm

The majority of these “children” turn out to be adults.

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