The government’s asylum policy is causing serious damage to vulnerable asylum seeking children, according to a report by Barnardo’s published today.
The study, supported by the Refugee Children’s Consortium, found that Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration (treatment of claimants) Act 2004 removes the welfare entitlement of families who have reached the end of the asylum process.
The policy removes support from families whose claims have failed and who have failed to take reasonable steps to leave the UK. The government believes that this will encourage families with children to leave the UK once their claim has been decided in a bid to prevent their children being taken into care.
“Children should not be being used as tools for enforcing immigration decisions,” said Alison Webster, principal policy officer at the children’s charity. “For them their parents are often the only stable part of their lives.”
The research found that:-
• All local authorities interviewed thought section 9 was incompatible with other child welfare legislation
• Many authorities felt they were leaving themselves open to legal challenges by working with these families
• Different approaches were resulting in a ‘postcode lottery’ in support.
The report also suggests the policy is not effective in speeding up returns. At least 35 families have disappeared and are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
The charity calls for the government to repeal section 9 before its implementation causes further damage and review its asylum policy as a whole.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government is currently carrying out a pilot of section 9 policy and will undertake a detailed evaluation with local authorities and NGOs of its findings as part of that process.”
“Section 9 support only applies to failed asylum seeking families and is intended to act as an incentive to return voluntarily before support is withdrawn and removal is enforced, it is not designed to make families destitute or to split families up.”