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An Act of Destruction

A statement on the Illegal Migration Act from KIND UK

KIND UK provides free legal assistance to children with immigration and citizenship matters. We work with children in care and children who reside with their families. We partner with 27 corporate law firms to deliver the highest quality legal advice and representation on a pro bono basis, assisting hundreds of children each year.

We frequently assist children who have lived in the UK all or most of their lives who only become aware they are not British citizens towards the end of school when issues of university and work arise.

We join others in condemning the Illegal Migration Act for its cruelty towards people seeking safety in the UK or who are brought to the UK irregularly by traffickers, and many others. We highlight the adverse effects it will have on the rights of children, including through barring access to leave to remain and British citizenship.

Children in similar circumstances to many of our clients will be severely and adversely affected by the Illegal Migration Act. We condemn its passing today and stand in solidarity with all those affected.

The Illegal Migration Act will allow the detention of many children and require children in families to be removed – for many, to countries to which they have no connection and where they may not be safe. For others, the Act shuts down existing pathways to citizenship, risking a generation of children being born and raised in the UK and/or with strong British connections with no route to regularise their status or acquire citizenship.

The Act rests on faulty premises: it proposes that a yet-more hostile immigration regime for those who arrive – even if they are fleeing war or persecution – will stop people attempting their journey in the first place. The Government has never given a response to this point – only asserted that it somehow ‘will’ deter refugees and other migrants, without any evidence to support this claim.

Even if the Government’s claims of deterrence were credible and well-founded, KIND UK opposes the principle of punishing children and refugees as a deterrent to others, as an attack on the principles of natural justice. The continued punishment of people who will be most impacted by the Act will have absolutely no influence on those who arrive in the future. The Act will simply condemn these people to lifetimes of legal and practical risk, often as a result of decisions they had no meaningful power over. We oppose this instrumentalisation of any person, but especially of children.

The reality of removal arrangements under the Act will be complex or impossible. Many children affected by the Act may be born and/or spend their entire childhood in the UK and have a solely or mainly British identity – either because they arrived unaccompanied as a small child or because removal of them and their family proves to be impossible (for example, because no ‘safe country’ will accept them).

The Government has adopted ever-more hostile policies and towards refugees and migrants and allowed a massive asylum backlog to develop due to its failure to decide applications promptly. What we need is compassion and a fair immigration and asylum system.  

Human rights are universal, and this Act is an attack on all of us, our humanity and our values. It is an act of destruction – dismantling rights and protections that are vital to us all. We recognise the many individuals and organisations from across civil society, the public and all political parties in both Houses of Parliament who have opposed this law.

Lady Hale has commented that the “intrinsic importance of citizenship” should never be played down. British citizenship enables a person to live and work in the UK permanently, to vote, to hold public office, to belong and participate fully in British life in a way that no other type of status allows.

When citizenship is denied to those whose lives, identities, hopes and futures lie in Britain, the very concept of British citizenship is devalued for us all.

For so many children, the possibilities of being granted leave to remain and acquiring British citizenship will be forever lost when the Act comes into force. They will be left in limbo facing a lifetime of instability and poverty in this country.

Together with our colleagues across the sector, we will continue to fight for the rights of children.