Stark new figures released by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, have revealed that an estimated 107,000 children and a further 26,000 18-24 year olds are living in London without secure immigration status.
Despite more than half being born in the UK, these young people are being excluded from life in London by Government policies that leave them unable to access higher education, open a bank account, apply for a driving licence, secure housing or employment.
Those above the age of 18 also face the threat of deportation to a country they may never have been to.
The Mayor has today labelled the findings a ‘national disgrace’ and called on the Government to take urgent action to support these young people to secure their futures. He believes it is vital that ministers provide financial support to advice services, cut extortionate immigration and citizenship fees and reinstate legal aid for children’s immigration cases.
The Mayor has warned of the potential for a further crisis with Brexit, if the 260,000 European-national children and 96,000 European-national young people living in the capital are not supported in applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, or for citizenship.
A new report, commissioned by the Mayor, reveals that more than half of the UK’s estimated 674,000 undocumented adults and children are living in the capital. Undocumented people* can include those who were born in the UK or have spent the majority of their life in the UK, as well as those who are eligible for citizenship but for whom the fees are prohibitive.
The research, carried out by the University of Wolverhampton, also highlights the precarious position of EU Londoners ahead of Brexit. There are more than one million EU citizens living and working in the capital but, if just five per cent of eligible EU citizens fail to secure settled status it would mean 175,000 people being left in the UK without appropriate documentation and at risk from the Government’s hostile immigration policies.
The Windrush scandal has exposed the barriers facing people who have lived in the UK for many years, including a complex application process, a lack of awareness of the system, cuts to legal aid and the high cost of applications – with the High Court last month deeming as ‘unlawful’ a Government decision to charge £1,012 to register children as British citizens. Since 2012, only 10 per cent of families with undocumented children in the UK have applied to secure their immigration status.
The Mayor is committed to helping Londoners of all backgrounds secure their status so that they may participate fully in the life of the city. He has provided £370,000 to improve access to legal advice for Londoners with insecure immigration status, donated £20,000 to the Windrush Justice Fund to provide support to London-based organisations working with those affected by the Windrush scandal, and provided extensive support to EU Londoners through free legal advice, guidance and grants to community organisations.
Coram Children’s Legal Centre’s Group Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Kamena Dorling said: “UK citizenship and immigration policy is failing a significant number of children who have grown up in the UK. These children are growing up in limbo instead of being legal citizens in the country they call home. What they need is stability and permanence and for a citizenship and immigration system that is fair and accessible so that they can fully integrate. No citizenship and immigration system can succeed if it excludes this many of the country’s children and teenagers from legal status.”