As the Illegal Migration Bill enters the House of Lords, the Children’s Commissioner remains concerned about provisions in the Bill for children and young people.
The Children’s Commissioner has a statutory duty, as set out in the Children Act 2004, to promote and protect the rights of children all children, with particular regard to children living away from home or receiving social care services.
This briefing sets out the Children’s Commissioner’s concerns about the overarching impact of the Bill on children, and specific areas where changes are needed.
The Children’s Commissioner for England has a responsibility for reserved matters across the UK and consults regularly with the Children’s Commissioners for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The respective offices have worked together since the Illegal Migration Bill has been introduced to make sure children who arrived in the UK – unaccompanied or with their families – have their rights upheld and their voices heard.
During Committee Stage in the Commons the Children’s Commissioner was glad to see so many MPs recognise the needs of children, whether unaccompanied or with their family.
The Children’s Commissioner notes that the Government has amended the Bill in response to some of the concerns raised, and has committed to further work.
However, the Bill still has the potential to significantly undermine efforts to safeguard children who have arrived in this country, including those who have been trafficked or exploited.
Although it does not make any changes to local authority duties under the Children Act, or to Home Office’s own safeguarding duties under the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, it will in practice make it far harder to make sure that those children are appropriately caredfor and kept safe.
Children’s rights are universal. They apply to all without exception, and regardless of their immigration status. The UK Government must not remove rights protections from children and families in vulnerable circumstances.
The enactment of this Bill would place the UK in clear breach of its international law obligations under a range of children’s rights treaties, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention 1951).