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The Illegal Migration Act and children and young people seeking asylum

Please note ongoing changes to law might mean this information sheet is out of date at the time of reading it. We will do our best to update the information and share an up-to-date version. We last checked the information on this sheet on June 19th, 2024.

The Illegal Migration Act is a new law that changes how the asylum system works in the UK. It will affect whether people who arrived in the UK on or after 20 July 2023 will be granted asylum in the UK. 

Because it is new and parts of the law don’t apply yet, we don’t know exactly how this law will affect people. It is possible that many adults and some children who arrived in the UK from 20 July 2023 will not have their asylum claims decided in the UK. This means they might not be able to stay in the UK. But there are some exceptions, so it won’t apply to everyone. It is important to get legal advice from a solicitor about your situation if you arrived on or after 20 July 2023.

Parts of the law apply to people who arrived in the UK without permission from 7 March 2023, whether they are seeking asylum or not. If you are in this situation, you can find more information here.

How old are you?

Your situation may depend on whether you are a child (under 18 years old) or an adult. 

The UK Home Office and social workers must agree that you are under 18 for you to be treated as a child in the asylum system. If you are under 18 but your age is not believed, you may want to get advice from a Community Care solicitor (this is a different type of solicitor from one who helps with your asylum case). 


If you are a child – under 18

If you are an unaccompanied child (you are alone in the UK and you are under 18) you may be able to stay in the UK until you are 18, even if your asylum claim is not processed. This is called temporary leave to remain. Your situation may change when you turn 18, and you should get legal advice about this.

If you are living with a parent or guardian, you should get legal advice about whether you should claim asylum separately from your parent or guardian, and how the Illegal Migration Act may affect you personally.

All children in England and Wales, including   asylum seekers and refugees, have rights under a law called the Children Act 1989 and other laws, and there are similar laws to protect children in other regions of the UK. For example, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have a right to care and support from the council in their area; and the Home Office is required to consider children’s safety and well-being in all decisions affecting children. If you have a social worker or solicitor, you can ask them about this. If you are an unaccompanied child seeking asylum in the UK, you can also contact a charity called the Refugee Council to ask for help.  

If you are an adult – over 18 

If you are over 18, the Home Office may say that your asylum claim will not be decided in the UK. The Home Office may try to send you to another country, such as Rwanda, for your asylum claim to be processed. 

It is important to speak to a solicitor if the Home Office says this to you, over the phone or in a letter or email. 

Where to get help

Solicitors

It is difficult to find a solicitor at the moment, but it’s important that the advice you get on your situation comes from a qualified expert and is correct. 

For help with finding a solicitor for your asylum claim or a Community Care solicitor to help with problems proving your age, you can contact:

Law Centres Network

Citizens Advice

Refugee Council (for unaccompanied children seeking asylum)

You can also contact other migrant and refugee charities for help. Right to Remain’s Lawyers Toolkit includes helpful links and advice on what to look for when searching for a legal adviser. 

Common Questions

Question: Is the Government sending people to Rwanda?

Answer: The Government introduced a new law called the Rwanda Act in April 2024 and was taking steps to send some people who entered the UK without permission on or after 1 January 2022 to Rwanda. The announcement of the general elections has affected the Rwanda plan.

Here is what we know:

  • There have been no forced removals to Rwanda yet (as of 11 June  2024)
  • The Prime Minister stated on 23 May 2024 that there will be no forced removals to Rwanda before the general elections, which will take place on 4 July 2024.
  • The Home Office have also confirmed that there will be no flights to Rwanda until July 24th at the earliest.
  • If the Conservative Party is no longer in power after 4 July, it is likely the Rwanda plan will not happen and there will be no forced removals to Rwanda at all.
  • Some adults have been detained for possible removal to Rwanda; however, many in this situation have now been released from detention. Anyone who is detained for this reason should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
  • Unaccompanied children (under 18) should not be at risk of detention, but children may be at risk of detention if the Home Office says they are over 18.  

You can find more information about the updates on the Rwanda Act, including contact details for other organisations that may be able to help here and Removals to Rwanda – Important Information – GMIAU.

And here are links to other organisations providing legal support:

Bail for Immigration Detainees (a charity that assists people to get out of immigration detention). Helpful resources on their website, including a New resource for people in detention facing removal to Rwanda | Bail for Immigration Detainees (biduk.org).

Wilson’s Solicitors (a Legal Aid law firm in London) has set up a special project to assist people who faced removal to Rwanda. Referrals can be sent to rwandareferrals@wilsonllp.co.uk. They will signpost to other organisations if they cannot provide direct assistance. 

Care4Calais (a charity) may be able to help people who received a notice of removal to Rwanda and/or who were detained.

Contacts:

  • for people who have received notice of removal to Rwanda +447519 773268 (text via Whatsapp)
  • for people who are detained and at risk of removal to Rwanda: +44 800 009 6268 (ring).

More information is available (in some additional languages) on their website

Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (a charity) may be able to assist people who need more information in Northwest of England.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors may be able to assist people detained. Requests for help can be made using this form.

Question: What do the changes mean if I am Albanian?

Answer: There are some special considerations for children and young people from Albania, under previous laws and under the Illegal Migration Act (these parts of the Act are not being used yet, however).  It is very important that children and young people from Albania get good legal advice on their situation at the earliest possible opportunity.

Question: Should I still claim asylum?

Answer: For people already in the UK who fear being harmed in their home country, it is best to seek legal advice about applying for asylum as soon as possible, to get information about the process and how relevant laws may apply to your case.

Question: I am really worried about these changes and it’s affecting my mental health, what should I do?

Answer: These changes are confusing and can feel scary – it is not surprising if your mental health and emotional wellbeing have been impacted. It might be helpful to seek out support and activities that can help you stay busy and active because that might help you manage mental and emotional health challenges. Some of these activities could include: learning new skills, playing sports, playing music or dancing, joining a drama club, walking in parks or the countryside, or swimming. 

For support with your mental health and wellbeing:

  • Barnardo’s offer mental health and other support for children and adults seeking asylum. 
  • ECPAT UK offers one-to-one mentoring, counselling, mental health support and other support to young survivors and victims of trafficking. 
  • To find other services and support in your local area, you can search here.

Question: People who are supporting me are avoiding this topic or say they are not sure about what will happen. Do I need to have a plan?

Answer: Yes. You should speak to a trusted professional and get good legal advice to be clear about how these changes might impact you based on your situation, including if you are reporting to the Home Office and are concerned about being detained.

Authors

This information sheet was co-created by the following organisations:

And a big thank you to the Youth Advisory Group at ECPAT UK and young people from SLRA for their contributions and feedback.