A Labour peer who fled the Nazis has urged the Government to “do the decent thing” and automatically grant EU children in care settled status in the UK with the ending of free movement.
Lord Dubs spearheaded calls to ensure vulnerable youngsters “don’t fall into a crack” and find themselves undocumented “and potentially stateless” post-Brexit.
The case was made as the House of Lords continued its scrutiny of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which will pave the way for a new points-based immigration system.
The change being sought to the legislation would give children in care and care leavers automatic and indefinite leave to remain under the EU settlement scheme.
Peers were fearful over the future of the vulnerable youngsters if their post-Brexit settled status applications are not completed by social workers or guardians by the June 2021 deadline.
The call for action was led by the refugee campaigner and Labour peer Lord Dubs, who fled the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport.
He said: “It is my contention that very little decisive action has been taken to ensure that none of these children become undocumented as the scheme draws to a close in June next year.
“By the Government’s own estimates there are 5,000 looked-after children and 4,000 care leavers that need to regularise their immigration status because the UK is leaving the EU.
“It can never, never be in a child’s best interest to be undocumented.”
He was supported by Tory peer the Earl of Dundee, veteran diplomat and independent crossbencher Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who is a trustee of the Refugee Council, as well as Liberal Democrat, Lord Bruce and Labour frontbencher Lord Kennedy.
Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford responded: “I absolutely agree that no child should be undocumented and that we shouldn’t create any cracks.”
But while acknowledging the intention of the amendment, she argued it would put “that vulnerable group at a greater risk of ending up without that secure evidence that’s so important of UK immigration status”.
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