RCPCH responds to proposed ‘Illegal Migration Bill’

On Tuesday 7 March, the Home Office unveiled a Bill which would give the Secretary of State the power to remove persons arriving in the UK by ‘unsafe and illegal routes’ such as those arriving on small boats, without providing such individuals with a chance to make an application for asylum.

RCPCH is alarmed by provisions in the Bill including those that could enable the removal of unaccompanied children from the UK and those on the provision of accommodation for unaccompanied children. 

In response to these concerning plans, RCPCH Officer for Child Protection Professor Andrew Rowland said:

As a country we have a moral, social, and political obligation to children fleeing war and persecution. 

This new bill announced by the Home Secretary breaches the European Convention on Human Rights by preventing people from applying for asylum. Most alarmingly, it gives power to the Secretary of State to remove an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child from the UK. The Bill also suggests that the Secretary of State has no legal requirement to provide unaccompanied children seeking asylum with accommodation, and that any accommodation provision can be outsourced to third parties. We know from experience that this has already led to a large number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children going missing. 

It is deeply worrying to consider this Bill against the Government’s policy on age assessments which is not just unethical but also has the potential to be inaccurate. Under this Bill, there is a very real risk that children will be wrongly identified as adults and removed from the UK.  

For many countries, there are no ‘safe routes’ through which to enter the UK, perilous small boats are one of the only options. The Government has previously stated that it would look at safer alternatives for asylum seekers, but these have never materialised. No parent or guardian would send a child on such a dangerous journey without good reason, and we know that at least six out of ten (60%) of all those who made the dangerous channel crossing to the UK in small boats last year would be recognised as refugees through the asylum process. Denying these people with an opportunity to seek safety from legitimate harm is inexcusable. Seeking safety for you and your child should not be a crime. 

We once again remind the Home Secretary that the rights of children and young people, as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), must be protected. We call upon MPs to reject this bill when it is brought to the House for its Second Reading and to stand up for children and young people of all backgrounds in all policies.