Against all odds: resettled separated children and the Immigration Bill


By Rachel Humphris

Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

The UK Government announced on 28th January 2016 that they will ‘lead a new initiative to resettle unaccompanied children from conflict regions’ [1]. After mounting pressure (see earlier post Happy New Year?), the Prime Minister, David Cameron, stated that separated children will be resettled if it is considered ‘in their best interests’ and in ‘exceptional cases’ [2].

In addition, the Government statement asserts: ‘significant efforts… will be made to review current practice and consider how local authorities and the Department for Education can strengthen capacity’ [3].

However, this commitment seems to be at odds with recent amendments to the Immigration Bill. On 21st January 2016, the Government introduced changes that would curtail the capacity of local authorities to care for children who have reached the UK. The amendment limits the availability of local authority support for certain categories of migrants. This affects destitute families with children as well as children in local authority care who turn 18 years of age, if they don’t have leave to enter or remain and are not asylum seekers.

Of particular concern are the changes regarding the support that local authorities are able to provide for unaccompanied asylum seeking children who leave care without immigration status [4]. Paragraph 2 of the new Schedule (amends paragraph 1(1) of Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act) states ‘adult migrant care leavers who have exhausted their appeal rights and have established no lawful basis to remain here are prevented from accessing local authority support for care leavers under the Children Act 1989’.

The recent amendments have yet to be debated in the House of Commons. It remains to be seen how local authorities can strengthen their capacity to care for resettled children when the Immigration Bill seeks to curtail this capacity.

About Rachel Humphris
Rachel is a Research Associate in the Department of Social Policy, University of Birmingham. She is also a PhD student in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford. Previously she was visiting doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MPI MMG) in Gottingen. Rachel is also a College Tutor on the BA in Human Sciences, University of Oxford.


[2] Media reports and NGOs have criticised the statement for vagueness; lack of concrete goals; and crucially, because it excludes children who have already made the journey to Europe


[4] Home Office (2016) Reforming support for migrants without immigration status. The new system contained in Schedules 8 and 9 to the Immigration Bill January 2016 para. 67

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