Expected impact of the Bill on children: The right to protection from persecution, discrimination and violence is a cornerstone of our international and domestic laws, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We are deeply concerned that provisions in the Bill will significantly undermine these principles.
The right to claim asylum has to be categorically upheld. We need to remember that most separated children arriving in the UK are fleeing the brutal Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and hundreds come each year from Sudan, where the long-running conflict has recently hit the headlines.
The data shows that most children arriving in the UK come from countries with very high grant rates for refugee status, and are forced to take dangerous journeys because there are limited options for safe routes to the UK. For example, for separated children from Afghanistan, the grant rate is almost 100%, for Eritrea it is 99% and for Sudan it is 95%. Of all children who arrived alone and had their cases determined last year, nearly 9 out of 10 (86%) were permitted to stay and rebuild their lives in the UK.
Significantly, provisions are likely to undermine the key principles of the child protection framework, like the 1989 Children’s Act by giving the Home Secretary the power to provide accommodation and other forms of support to separated children.
Clauses 15-20 deal with issues relating to the rights of separated children who are in need. Significantly, these provisions are likely to undermine the key principles of the child protection framework, by giving the Home Secretary the power to provide accommodation and other forms of support to separated children under the ‘looked after’ provisions, which are explicitly reserved to local authorities, as well as the power to terminate a child’s ‘looked after’ status when they are in the care of a local authority.
Moreover, the Government introduced clauses that deal with situation where a child’s age is disputed, i.e. when the Home Office does not believe they are under 18 years old. The new Clauses 55 and 56 allow for the detention of children for the purpose of age assessments and pave the way for the use of scientific methods to confirm age. These provisions are deeply concerning and run contrary to the wealth of evidence that has been collated over the years by experts in relation to the age assessment process, including a recent report commissioned by the Home Office, which confirmed that scientific methods provide an age range rather than a precise age.