An event held in parliament yesterday called on the government to introduce affordable fees and fair treatment for young UK migrants. The event, organised by the Let Us Learn campaign, which was founded as part of Just for Kids Law in 2014 to fight for the right of young migrants to access student finance, highlighted the multiple barriers faced by young migrants as they struggle to attain stable status in the UK.
The event opened with an amazing monologue performance from the spoken word artist Dajay Brown about the experience of young undocumented people in the UK and their need to feel free and secure.
This was followed with an interactive game that put participants in the shoes of a young person struggling to attain status in the UK, showing how easily young people are forced into illegality and uncertainty.
The next speaker was Stuart McDonald, MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East, sponsor of the event, who spoke of his support for the campaign and the scandal that young people are finding it more and more difficult to secure status in the UK. He spoke of the need to push back in all factors forcing people into illegality, including massive increase in fees and requirements to make numerous applications to secure and maintain status.
Mr McDonald was followed by Ryan Shorthouse of the conservative think tank Bright Blue, who asserted that the government's "hostile environment" policy clashed with core conservative values. He called for a reformed immigration system that values cohesion and contribution, including giving children born in the UK faster and cheaper routes to citizenship.
The next speaker was Amanda Weston QC of Garden Court Chambers, who gave an overview of the legal issues at stake, including the astronomical rise in fees since the law was changed in 2003, and the lack of fee waivers for applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Ms Weston pointed out that the Home Secretary should only be using the power to raise fees in line with other laws, including those which require the government to prioritise the wellbeing of children.
Afzal Khan MP then made an intervention, to speak about the importance of standing up against the "hostile environment" policy, including the government's policy on immigration detention centres. "How is it possible that we are the only country in Europe with indefinite detention?" He said. "We need to keep up the fight."
The final speaker was Let Us Learn campaigner Ijeoma Moore, who spoke of her own experience of growing up in the UK with uncertain status, including a period spent in a detention centre. "Trying to gain status was an uphill battle." She said. "I've been in the UK since I was 2 years old, I know no other home - but I'm constantly told I don't belong."