The Home Office has a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship & Immigration Act 2009, yet parents with dependent children are routinely detained pending removal or deportation.
BID believes that separating children from their parents solely for immigration purposes can never be in their best interests. Last year our Separated Families’ project supported 167 parents separated from their 322 children.
We caught up with our legal manager Nick Beales, about his experience of managing the project. He said:
“When the Home Office decides to detain a parent, they have a legal duty, under section 55 of the Border, Citizenship and Immigration Act of 2009, to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
“This should involve contacting the local authority’s children services to see if the child or children in question are known to them, and also contacting the Office of the Children’s Champion (an internal Home Office department), which offers specialist advice on the damage detention and deportation could have on the child.
“In reality our experience shows that the Home Office very rarely fulfils this requirement. So although those safeguards exist, they are seldom adhered to. The Home Office is failing families, and children are paying the cost.”
Separation from their parents causes children extreme distress - many of the children of BID’s clients have lost weight, suffered from recurring nightmares, and experienced insomnia during their parent's enforced absence. In some cases, in direct breach of Home Office policy, parents who are the sole or primary carers for their children have been detained, resulting in their children being placed in care.
Since the 2012 legal aid cuts, the situation for separated families has worsened. The cuts meant that legal aid is no longer available to the vast majority of parents who wish to challenge their removal or deportation. Nick explained how, coupled with the cuts to legal aid, the Home Office has changed its policies to make it even harder to win a deportation appeal based on article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, (the right to a private and family life):
“Since 2012, you can only appeal deportation on the basis of your relation to the child if you can prove that it would be ‘unduly harsh’ to separate you from the child. This utterly unacceptable position position legitimises the suffering of the child, so long as it is not ‘unduly harsh’.
“You’re now effectively in a position where you have to show not only that it would be “harsh” on a child to be separated from their parent, but that it would be “unduly harsh”. That will invariably require expert evidence, but there’s now no legal aid. It may well be that it would be unduly harsh, but you can’t get the evidence because you don’t have the money to pay a lawyer or for expert reports which cost over £1,000.”
BID’s Separated Families’ Project provides vital legal advice and representation to help release parents from detention, thus reuniting as many families as possible. In addition to this our ‘Article 8 Deportation Advice Project’ supports people to appeal their deportation order based on their family life in the UK. Cases involving children are some of the most challenging cases with the furthest- reaching consequences; they are also often extremely costly. If you are able to support our work, please consider making a donation this International Day of Families and help us fight for more families to be reunited.
Please consider making a donation towards our vital work reuniting families separated by detention and deportation.