Integrated Communities Strategy green paper consultation – Refugee & Migrant Children’s Consortium submission, June 2018
Below is an excerpt from the RMCC’s response to the government’s Integrated Communities Strategy green paper consultation. You can read our full response here.
Introduction: Building Integrated Communities
Question 1 – We define integrated communities as communities where people – whatever their background – live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Do you agree with our definition?
While the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium (RMCC) agrees with the definition of integrated communities, we are concerned that the strategy as a whole is silent on those individuals who in the UK have their rights violated on a daily basis and are segregated in society because of their immigration status. The post-war human rights framework recognises ‘the inherent dignity … and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’1Preamble to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. and it is vital to remember that all people living in the UK have basic rights by virtue of being human. The idea of earned rights risks diminishing the rights available to the most vulnerable in our society. Rights are not earned by paying taxes to a particular government and do not come with possession of a particular passport. Yet, it is often non-citizens, in law and in practice, who are most often in need of human rights protection.
Currently there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants (commonly referred to by the government as ‘illegal migrants’) living in the UK, including many who have been through (and in some cases have been let down by) the asylum system. Others have grown up here and have every right to remain but have been blocked from regularising their status by high fees, lack of legal support and an inaccessible immigration system – problems highlighted all too clearly by the recent Windrush scandal.
Without leave to remain, a young person cannot work, access healthcare, rent property or hold a bank account. Not having long-term leave to remain prevents young people and children from planning for their futures, and it prevents inclusion. Affording the immigration fees is necessarily prioritised ahead of other opportunities, healthcare or work. It prevents people from gaining new skills, gaining decent jobs, or owning property because of fears that they will be removed from the UK, or will be unable to afford the fees for their next renewal.
As a result of the Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016, anyone living in the UK with limited leave to remain can be considered by the Home Office as having ‘precarious’ status. This means that their contributions to society, the work that they have undertaken and their family lives can all be considered as temporary, rather than working to establish a permanent home here. This, combined with the increasing administrative burden on employers and landlords, has an impact on the ability of people who have limited leave to remain to build their lives in the UK. The necessity of conducting immigration checks impacts on the lives of those with limited leave to remain, indefinite leave and British citizens, for example in London maternity wards where all pregnant women must present identification before accessing services. This prejudices the most vulnerable in London, including destitute British national or foreign national women.
Inclusivity cannot be achieved without acknowledging the importance of immigration status for a significant proportion of the population. In addition to facing issues such as destitution, children and young people who are undocumented are restricted from full participation in work and education. Whilst children are able to go to school without status, many young people cannot go to university because they do not meet the eligibility criteria for a student loan. Student loans and home fees are only available to someone who is under 18 and has lived in the UK for 7 years, or who is over 18 and has spent half their life in the UK.2Following the case of Tigere in the Supreme Court, anyone applying for a student loan must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to the first day of the course. See R (on the application of Tigere) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Respondent)  UKSC 57 Therefore a 19 year old who has lived in the UK since the age of ten may still be blocked from accessing higher education.
Young people are deprived of the opportunity to go to university or to gain employment skills through further education, unless they can self-fund international fees. By denying these young people opportunities we prevent them from fully contributing, and place unnecessary barriers in their paths. We should not be excluding this group from a vision for a skilled and integrated workforce.
More attention needs to be paid in the government’s integration strategy to the impact that immigration status has on an individual’s ability to integrate and contribute to community life. The government should follow the lead of the Mayor of London, whose Strategy for Social Integration recognises the barriers to integration facing migrants and pledges to ‘continue to push for a fairer approach to immigration enforcement which does not undermine social integration’, alongside providing support for young Londoner to access their legal rights to citizenship and residence.3‘All of us: The Mayor’s strategy for social integration’
You can read our full response here.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Preamble to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.|
|2.||↑||Following the case of Tigere in the Supreme Court, anyone applying for a student loan must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to the first day of the course. See R (on the application of Tigere) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Respondent)  UKSC 57|
|3.||↑||‘All of us: The Mayor’s strategy for social integration’|