The Coram Children’s Legal Centre (CCLC) has suggested that hundreds of children in the care system could be left unlawfully resident in the UK following Brexit if they fail to register with the EU settlement scheme before June next year.
Currently, the scheme has had more than 3.6 million applications so far and as of March 2020, 412,820 of these applications were for children. In the care system, the charity said, there are an estimated 9000 children and young people who were eligible, but UK local authorities have secured status for “fewer than 500 according to one estimate”.
The charity has called for a concerted effort between central government and local authorities to identify and support young people in care or care leavers eligible for the EU settlement scheme before the deadline for registration in June 2021.
More widely, the CCLC estimates that the number of children that need to apply to the scheme could be “far in excess” of the 493,800 applications currently made, with estimates of the total number of children with EU parents being in excess of 900,000, according to the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.
In total, the CCLC has made 4 recommendations:
1. The Home Office must take concrete action, including scrapping the £1012 fee, to help children who are entitled to British citizenship to understand and realise their rights.
2. The Home Office, Department for Education and Ministry of Justice should work with local authorities, the devolved administrations and civil society to make and resource a comprehensive plan to identify and support every single eligible child in care and care leaver, including those eligible to apply as family members of EEA citizens, as soon as possible.
3. The deadline to apply to the EU settlement scheme must be extended beyond 30 June 2021.
4. After the deadline, children and young people eligible under the EU settlement scheme must not be brought under the UK immigration system’s existing long and expensive routes that are currently failing other children and young people.
Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King’s College London and Coram Children’s Legal Centre trustee, said:
“Proportionally, many fewer children than adults have applied to the EU settlement scheme so far. Not all of those who have not are at risk of becoming undocumented. But those in care, homeless, or with complex needs or family circumstances are disproportionately at risk. Losing the right to live in the country where you have grown up is a tremendous risk with long-lasting consequences.
“This does not need to happen. There are simple steps the Home Office could take to reduce costs, streamline applications, increase awareness and eliminate unnecessary barriers and bureaucracy – saving public money and the time of civil servants and the courts as well as helping children. No child should lose their rights because we, as a society, do not think that they matter enough. The time to act is now.”