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Charity fears immigration law changes could leave Havering asylum families destitute

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 December 2015

Kamena Dorling, Coram Children's Legal Centre, policy and programmes manager

Kamena Dorling, Coram Children's Legal Centre, policy and programmes manager

Coram Children's Legal Centre

A charity has spoken out about significant problems asylum-seeking children may face following changes to immigration laws.

Community groups are concerned people will face desitute under the new legislation. Picture Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/PA ImagesCommunity groups are concerned people will face desitute under the new legislation. Picture Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/PA Images

Earlier this year, the government introduced a resident’s test which bars anyone, not a lawful resident for at least a year, from accessing legal aid.

Kamena Dorling, head of policy and programme at children’s charity, Coram, which offers support and assistance to young people, including those in Havering, explained the test affects current and failed asylum seekers.

She said: “The residents test removes legal aid from a group of people.”

“I also think it will affect a much larger group than anyone would agree.”

The test was introduced by the government earlier this year and ruled discriminatory and unlawful by the High Court.

The ruling was deemed lawful following a hearing at the Court of Appeal at the end of November.

The charity had seen a drop in the amount of cases it could help when legal aid support was first removed from certain areas of immigration law under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

Kamena added that communities could see “increased levels of destitution and homelessness and people going underground.”

In addition to the residents test, current proposals to the Immigration Bill 2015-2016, include plans to stop children from being supported under the Children Act 1989 if their families asylum claims are refused.

The bill, due to come into force next year, takes support from the children’s act framework and replaces it with immigration legislation.

As a result of immigration statuses, people would be restricted from accessing benefits including welfare and housing.

Unable to access legal aid, families would be unable to challenge any decisions denying support and may find themselves under increasing hardship.

Cllr Damian White, council deputy leader and cabinet member for Housing, said: “We prioritise the safeguarding of children and would always help any family in need – we have a duty to do that.”

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