Some 107,000 undocumented under-18s and a further 26,000 undocumented 18- 24-year-olds are currently living in the capital, Sadiq Khan’s London’s Children and Young People Who Are Not British Citizens report says.
Khan brands the figures “a national disgrace” and adds that these children and young people may face problems accessing higher education, health care, opening bank accounts and applying for driving licences, housing and jobs.
Those above the age of 18 “also face the threat of deportation to a country they may never have been to”, the mayor warns.
Undocumented people can include those who arrived in the UK with proper documentation but stayed longer than permitted, those who arrived in the UK without proper documentation, trafficked children, unaccompanied minors whose temporary leave to remain was withdrawn once they reached adulthood and young people born to parents who are themselves undocumented, the study, commissioned by Khan and carried out by the University of Wolverhampton, says.
The report finds that around half of the UK’s 215,000 undocumented children live in London.
It warns that the number of undocumented young people living in the capital could rise dramatically if an estimated 350,000 young EU nationals are not helped to secure settled status before Brexit.
Assessing the size of the undocumented population can be difficult due to the lack of official data, it adds, saying that the report includes a review of previous research and an analysis of current data to provide an estimate of the number of undocumented young Londoners.
Khan said: “It is a national disgrace that there are hundreds of thousands of young Londoners being denied the opportunity of a secure future in our city and living in constant fear of deportation from the government’s hostile immigration policies.”
Kamena Dorling, head of policy and public affairs at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, said: “UK citizenship and immigration policy is failing a significant number of children who have grown up in the UK.
“These children are growing up in limbo instead of being legal citizens in the country they call home.
“What they need is stability and permanence and for a citizenship and immigration system that is fair and accessible so that they can fully integrate.
“No citizenship and immigration system can succeed if it excludes this many of the country’s children and teenagers from legal status.”
The Home Office said it “did not recognise the figures quoted in the report” and insisted that children may be granted leave to remain if they have lived in the UK continuously for seven years, or if they are aged between 18 and 25, and have lived continuously in the UK for half of their life.
A spokesperson said: “There are a range of routes and options available for people of all ages to regularise their status, including children who have lived in the UK for most of their lives.
“We do not agree with the notion that leaving the EU will increase the number of undocumented children. The EU settlement scheme allows applicants, including children, to apply without an identity document when there is a reason beyond their control why they can’t obtain one.”