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Legal aid for lone children restored as migrants’ right to strike confirmed in Rules


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Perhaps it’s the Donald Trump effect? The government yesterday announced two policy changes that should benefit migrants in the UK, just as the famously anti-immigrant reality TV host President of the United States was landing at Stansted airport.

First, legal aid is to be restored for lone child migrants. Justice minister Lucy Frazer QC announced that following a judicial review by the Children’s Society, the government plans to:

lay an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to bring immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated children into scope of legal aid.

The Children’s Society said that the change is the result of a “five year-long legal challenge and campaign in collaboration with Islington Law Centre, Brick Court Chambers, Doughty Street Chambers and other civil society organisations”.

Meanwhile, over in the Points Based System, the Home Secretary has confirmed that non-EU workers will have their right to strike made explicit in the Immigration Rules. The statement seems to rather doubt whether this was necessary anyway:

It is not the Government’s policy to prevent migrant workers from engaging in legal strike action; and, to date, I am not aware of any case where a migrant worker has had their leave curtailed, or been removed, as a result of having engaged in legal industrial action. However, to put the matter beyond doubt, I will be making changes to the guidance and Immigration Rules for migrant workers (under the Tier 2 and 5 immigration routes) and their sponsors.

The specific change will add legal strike action to the list of exceptions to the rule on absences from employment without pay for migrant workers. It will make clear that there will be no immigration consequences for any migrant worker who takes part in legal strike action in the same way that a migrant worker is not disadvantaged if they take maternity or paternity leave.

Nichola Carter explains in this post why there were concerns over the right to strike to begin with. The changes to guidance will be made shortly and the Immigration Rules amended “at the next available opportunity in the Autumn”.

Government typically uses big media occasions to quietly bury bad news. But as polling and survey data increasingly suggests a shift in public attitudes to immigration, perhaps next time ministers won’t feel the need to hide sensible minor reforms.


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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.