MiCLU have been celebrating the recent success of a Kids in Need of Defense UK immigration application where the Home Office praised the detailed set of evidence prepared by lawyers conducting the case. The evidence highlighted the stigma, discrimination and abuse potentially faced by two undocumented children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were they to be removed with their mother to her home country.
MiCLU supported a dynamic team of lawyers from Reed Smith LLP who worked pro bono to complete a ‘7-year immigration application’ for the mother and her two primary school-aged children – one of whom was born in the UK – as part of MiCLU’s 7-year application project through Kids in Need of Defense.
Kids in Need of Defense UK aims to assist young people in the UK regularise their immigration status. ‘Seven-year applications’ enable those under 18 who have been resident in the UK for seven years to gain leave to remain on the basis of their close personal connections to the UK. This kind of application is not currently within the scope of legal aid, yet there is a huge need for specialist legal assistance and representation.
The 7-year application cases referred to MiCLU’s specialist supervising solicitors and specially trained pro bono legal teams are complex, varied and, without exception, the families involved are highly vulnerable.
Lawyers involved with the project have, since its inception, been struck by the extent to which the vulnerability of the children accessing the service is compounded by a lack of immigration status, which is the key to unlocking access to support in all areas of their life.
Pro bono lawyers have frequently found themselves navigating child protection issues, concerns of domestic violence, exploitative relationships, and safeguarding and welfare concerns. At the same time a high incidence of learning difficulties and physical disability has been apparent across the child client group, as well as physical and mental illness among the parents.
The majority of families served by the project depend on access to food banks and are in a very poor financial situation. Conversely, where families are able to rely on support from charity and friends, the project has seen significant difficulties in obtaining fee exemptions for making immigration applications as well as access to public funds. This is due to difficulties in providing evidence of informal arrangements, and fear of the ‘hostile environment’ – meaning that those supporting families may be afraid to place their support ‘on the record’.
Each case prepared as part of the 7-year applications project involves a significant time commitment for the legal team handling the case, due to the complex nature of this caseload, and we thank all the firms who partner with us for their tremendous contribution, dedication and positive approach in assisting migrant children to resolve their undocumented status.
Many parents are moved to tears when they realise that they are being represented by a team of people who genuinely care about their family and their future.
MiCLU’s pro bono teams have so far assisted 13 children to regularise their immigration status or gain British citizenship. In addition to the children we have represented, a further 11 adult carers and siblings have been granted permission to remain. This means that children’s carers can now work lawfully and support their families, and where necessary have access to benefits to ensure that their children’s needs are fully met.
We currently have a further 9 applications pending with the Home Office and 9 applications being prepared by pro bono teams. Our success rate to date is 100%. Despite this incredible work from our pro bono teams, supervised by our specialist solicitors, there is a long waiting list of families who are unable to access the specialist legal help needed to effectively assist with this type of application.
For more information about MiCLU’s work through Kids in Need of Defense UK, see here.