There could be as many as 120,000 “undocumented” children living in Britain without a UK visa or UK immigration status, according to a new report from a legal charity.
According to the data, approximately half were born in the UK and have grown up among migrant communities. However, they’re unable to gain permanent residency or claim indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and in some cases are unaware of their legal status.
“Thousands of undocumented children and young people will have grown up in the UK, been educated here, will think of themselves as British,” the Coram Children’s Legal Centre commented. “Many grow up in the UK without realising that immigration is even an issue, their lack of regular status only becoming evident when they wish to work or access further or higher education.”
According to the centre, without permanent residency or a UK visa, these undocumented children will be unable to claim any benefits, gain higher education or open a bank account.
The report, authored by Head of Policy and Programmes Kamena Dorling, one of the largest barriers for the children is a lack of affordable representation and complex regulations.
Dorling added that even those who managed to submit an immigration application will usually only be granted two and a half years leave, and may have to wait ten years before they can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
During this period they have to make five further applications, and face over £8,000 in fees and charges, while living in a state of insecurity,” Dorling added.
Coram has called for children to be given a less expensive route to legal residency to ensure they’re not caught up in complications related to UK immigration while unable to financially support their application.