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State of Children’s Rights in England 2016: Immigration, Asylum & Trafficking

2016 saw the continuation of the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War which included an increase in the numbers of separated children on their own and children in families making dangerous journeys and seeking asylum in the UK. At the same time, the UK voted to leave the European Union and whilst the exact timing and consequences are unknown at the time of writing, this is likely to have an impact on the UK’s immigration policy.

These events have presented a number of challenges for the Government and as a result it has taken a number of steps to further their policy of creating a “hostile environment” for migrants. In particular, we are extremely troubled by a number of measures that have come into effect through the Immigration Act 2016 that further erode migrant and refugee children’s rights. We are disappointed that the Government continues to ignore the best interests of refugee children (article 3) and prioritises immigration control over children’s welfare.

What progress have we made?

The publication of both the new Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ACDS) and Home Office working guidance on age assessments and ACDS practice guidance is a positive step given the UN Committee’s continued concern about this issue over many years.

The Government has made a series of welcome pledges to address the refugee crisis: expanding its scheme to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 and an additional 3000 at-risk children and families from the Middle East and North Africa; and an initiative in May 2016 to work with local authorities to relocate vulnerable separated children registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20 March 2016. As part of this, the Government has started to relocate separated children (some of whom will be reunited with their families) in October 2016 after the closure of the migrant camp in Calais.

Alongside this the Government increased the funding for local authorities supporting unaccompanied children by 20% for the current financial year and £60,000 per year to bolster regional structures.