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Do changes to the immigration system look after children?

The immigration system is broken. Young asylum seekers who arrive in the UK alone often spend years fighting for their right to feel safe and settled. Alongside coping with the trauma of fleeing and losing loved ones, their lives are punctuated by hostile interviews and legal battles. The system needs to change. But are the changes in the Nationality and Borders Bill the answer?


Fair for children?

The idea of the Nationality and Borders Bill is to make the immigration system fairer and more efficient. It aims to tackle illegal immigration and people smuggling.

In reality, the proposed changes provide less protection for children seeking safety. Here's why...

Official routes

two young men walking outside

Official routes

Only asylum seekers who arrive through the rare ‘official routes’ will be granted refugee status and allowed to stay in the UK permanently.

‘Official routes’ mean resettlement programmes straight from refugee camps or country of origin. Anyone arriving otherwise will not be allowed to apply for refugee status.  

This ignores the fact that many young people don’t have a choice in how they get here.

It is their human right to seek safety. 

young man taking photo outside

I feel strong

I feel strong

Suhail arrived in the UK all alone four years ago. Like many young refugees, he had to fight hard to start a new life. He struggled with mental health but has now found his feet and takes beautiful photos all over London.

Unrealistic requirements

Unrealistic requirements

Asylum seekers will have to present all evidence for their asylum claims at the very start.

This is unrealistic. Children seeking asylum often have to present evidence later. Not because their claim is weak but because they need time and therapeutic support to disclose what happened to them. Or they may have received poor legal advice or did not have an interpreter who spoke the same language. 

Under the new bill, if a child remembers vital information later on, they will be made to feel untrustworthy, like they deliberately withheld evidence at the outset.

Children should be supported to process their feelings and experiences rather than retraumatised to meet a deadline. 

girl in red coat leaning on railing by side of road


This is not a joyful moment in our lives, we have to talk through the worst parts of our past – it's traumatic.

case study

'My first court hearing was horrible. My solicitor advised me to not answer every time anyone asks you any questions. However, when I got the refusal letter from the judge, it said it was because I hadn’t answered any of the questions.'

This is just one example of the difficulties young people have when going through the immigration system. Luckily, this young person changed his solicitor, appealed and had his claim accepted. But the Nationality and Borders Bill would mean future unaccompanied asylum-seeking children wouldn’t be allowed this fundamental right to justice. They would face incorrect decisions with life-changing consequences

age assessments

man and woman one side of desk interviewing young man

Age assessments

Under the Nationality and Borders Bill, even more asylum-seeking children will be forced to prove their age.

The assessment process is already complex but proposed changes will make it worse.

Children will need to provide even more proof and it will be harder for local authorities to make their own decisions.

One reform means scientific methods such as X-Rays could be used to prove age. The medical profession has condemned this approach as ineffective and unethical.

young woman outside smiling

Asylum seeking misconceptions

News outlets and political commentators can sometimes make it sound like the asylum process is easy. That it is a choice people take. It is not. It can be a very long process. Different for everyone.

Persecuted not protected

For children who are forced to flee and traumatised, having their identity questioned and spending years trying to prove their age can be devastating to their mental health. Many will be wrongly put into adult accommodation until they are assessed, putting them at greater risk of being groomed, forced into labour, sexually abused.  

What’s more, child victims of exploitation with a criminal conviction of over 12 months would no longer be safeguarded or helped. These are children who need protection. Instead they will be pushed back into the arms of criminals.

young boy black jacket looking down camera

Join our campaign

The Nationality and Borders Bill threatens to treat child victims of exploitation as criminals. We have the chance to protect them. But to make this a reality, we need MPs vote for it this Tuesday. 

Join us by calling on your MP to attend the vote and protects children.

This petition is now closed. Check out our other campaigns and see how you can help create a safer society for all children.