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Impact of the new immigration bill on children

The Illegal Migration Act became law on 20 July 2023. Under its provisions, children or young people who arrive in the UK seeking safety will be locked out of claiming asylum and denied the protection and support they need.  What would happen to children like Mina, Ezra, Amira and Jamal*?



These scenarios are fictionalised examples, based off case studies and real life experiences. Any names and identifying characteristics have been changed to protect the young people, and the photographs are posed by models.

Mina is detained

Three-year-old Mina is detained

Mina and her mother fled Afghanistan, where their lives were at risk due to conflict. They arrived in the UK, hoping to join Mina's uncle and aunt.

Under the Illegal Migration Act, Mina is to be detained with her mother on arrival, their claims for asylum won’t be considered and they will be held until they can be removed to a third country. This could take years.

A child's hands are holding onto a metal mesh fence.

End child detention

Based on the experience of children who were detained prior to the Government’s 2010 commitment to end child immigration detention, Mina’s physical and mental health will be significantly damaged. She’s likely to be traumatised and to witness others being removed by force. She’ll receive little if any schooling. Her health and development will decline, and she may be locked out of necessary medical support.

Every child should have access to the health care and education that they need. Every child has a right to hope, safety and their childhood.

Ezra's impossible choice

A teenage boy is sitting on a bed, resting his chin on his hand and looking worried.

Ezra's impossible choice

14-year-old Ezra was exploited and trafficked in Albania. He managed to escape to the UK .

With the Act becoming law, Albania is now recognised by the Home Office to be a safe country. Ezra now faces a dilemma:

  • He can highlight himself to the authorities, be detained and may then face being sent back to Albania. His abusers will know this, and may be waiting for him there.
  • He can remain in hiding in the UK, which will make him a target for exploitation and abuse. Ezra will be unable to access the mental health support and protections he needs.
young woman outside smiling

Helping young refugees and migrants

Without support, it’s easy to lose hope. We fight alongside young refugees, giving them the tools they need to rebuild their lives.

Amira is alone again

Amira is alone again

12-year-old Amira fled war in Syria with her mother. She arrived in the UK, having lost her mother during their escape.

Upon arriving in the UK, Amira will be placed in Home Office unaccompanied child accommodation and then moved into local authority care. She will spend the next few years integrating with the community and coming to terms with the trauma she experienced.

When Amira is on the cusp of turning 18, under the Act’s provisions, the Home Office will direct the local authority to return her to Home Office accommodation as they prepare to remove her to a third country.

Amira will lose everything again. She'll lose the support of the community and friends she's made, and will be automatically removed from her home of seven years.

A young woman wearing a hijab is looking through a window, appearing concerned.

Jamal is denied support

Close-up of teenage boys hands, clutched together anxiously whilst he sits. In the foreground is a blurred person with a clipboard, implying that he is in a session with health professional.

Jamal is denied support

Jamal fled Sudan age 15, running away from discrimination, conflict and violence. Despite telling Immigration officials on arriving that he is 15 years of age, they decide that he is ‘significantly over 18’.

Instead of receiving the care and protections he should do as a child, Jamal will be placed in detention, sharing a room with 2 adult men as he awaits removal from the UK. His ability to challenge the mistaken age assessment have been limited by the Illegal Migration Act.

Asylum is a human right, not a luxury.

In British society, we have a long tradition of offering sanctuary to people fleeing persecution and doing right by children. We are proud of creating a safe environment for children who are running away from war, persecution and exploitation.

With the passage of the Illegal Migration Act, we have effectively closed the door for children seeking help. The Children’s Society will continue to fight for children to receive the protection they desperately need. Let's make sure we are a country that provides safety, social justice, and freedom to children who need it the most.