Child asylum-seekers targeted in Home Office budget cuts

Date: 11th October 2010
Category: Refugee , migrant and asylum-seeking children

Thousands of child asylum-seekers are to be removed from Britain under savage budget cuts being drawn up by the Home Office ahead of this week's comprehensive spending review.

A briefing document sent to ministers sets out detailed proposals to remove child refugees before they reach 17 years old, and recommends bearing down on benefits given to asylum seekers.

The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) plans to cut a third of its staff by 2014, prompting fears of security risks at British ports and airports. Under the proposals, the UKBA says it would be able to reduce its annual £2.45bn budget by £346m.

Setting out a number of options for cutting costs, the document reads: "We need to resolve underlying trend on asylum support ... On asylum support this will involve, for example, continuing recent tightening of entitlement to support, removing minors before they reach the age of 17 ..."

But the Home Office is also considering saving money by offering a partial amnesty to asylum-seekers whose claims have been delayed by processing backlogs.

The paper recommends "continuing to consider grants [of the right to stay in the UK] where agency delays mean even failed asylum-seekers are still in-country after several years".

There are further plans to end the right of appeal to those applying for migration visas outside the UK, to reduce costs.

But of greatest concern will be a policy of mass removal of unaccompanied children before they reach 17 and a half, the age when they are deemed to be adult asylum-seekers.

Under current rules unaccompanied child asylum-seekers are usually granted leave to remain in the UK until they can make a fresh asylum application as an adult.

There are more than 4,200 unaccompanied child asylum-seekers in Britain, with most being supported in local authority social services homes.