Imagine you come to the UK with your father, leaving your mother in Lithuania. Your father works late into the night, and drinks heavily at home. After enduring physical and sexual abuse, you tell someone at school when you are 15, and are taken into local authority care.
You have a passport, and you have been in the UK for over five years. But when you start making plans for leaving care at 18, you realise you don't know what your rights are. Your father has never had work contracts and his drinking means that he's had long periods being unemployed, which you think could affect your right to reside in the UK. Because of Brexit, you can't plan for your future because you don't know if you will be able to remain here and carry on with your studies, and you don't have anyone who can explain the situation to you.
Hope eventually comes in the form of a charity that takes on your case and works with you to establish your status and your rights.
As the inexorable step towards Article 50 is taken, Coram - the first dedicated children's charity - asks what value are we placing on children's rights in the context of Brexit?
The answer so far is very little. Much has been written and talked about Brexit, but there has been little room for consideration of what it means for children. Indeed, children are mentioned only once in the Government's Brexit White Paper, The United Kingdom's exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union1.
What place then for a child, like the one mentioned here, taken into the care of the British state but not British and set to leave care at 18 without any support in the only home they have ever known? Do they not deserve some of our attention?
It will take a determined process to ensure that every child can face the future with safety and security through - and beyond - Britain's transition out of the EU.
This is why Coram Children's Legal Centre continues to champion the cases of children who have no access to legal aid and no one to fight for them, and why Coram produced its briefing paper Brexit: children's rights at risk or future opportunity in the global era?
The paper examines critical issues and questions that we believe need to be considered to best guarantee the best interests of children.
The key considerations identified are:
• The citizenship or residence status of children, especially for children brought up in the UK, and those brought up in local authority care, and the citizenship or residence status of the parents of children who have been brought up in the UK.
• The need for an impact assessment prior to any changes in children's support currently funded via EU funding including anti-poverty initiatives such as breakfast clubs2 and projects dealing with violence against women, young people and children3, to ensure that children do not experience any unfair disadvantage due to the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
• The maintenance and enhancement of current provisions of international commitments which support and protect children, such as around sexual exploitation and cross-border family disputes over contact and residence.
• The need for clarity and certainty to address the concerns that children have for fairness and for there to be no tolerance of xenophobic bullying.
Children live in a different world from their parents and grandparents. Around one in 15 children was born to a parent not born in the UK, and for them the virtual world has no borders. It is in this context that the British Government will need to address and define its obligations to children in the world.
Therefore, Coram is calling on the Government to take pro-active steps to advance the rights of children now and in the future:
• As part of the Great Repeal Bill secure and guarantee children's rights continuously from the day we leave the EU.
• Provide children with safety and security by ensuring that all agreements and protocols supporting this are maintained or enhanced.
• Guarantee the positions of children and their family members who have made their home in the UK to ensure that children's needs are met.
• Make sure those children and their families know their rights.
• Launch a 'Task Force on Children's Rights and Responsibilities' to propose and frame provision on children's rights as part of the new British Bill of Rights
• Incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its protocols fully into UK law."
The full briefing paper is available at www.coram.org.uk/brexit
1: HM Government (2017), "The United Kingdom's exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union". Cmnd 9417.
2: : European Commission Recommendation: 2013/112/EU. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/ ?uri=CELEX: 32013H0112&from=EN
3: Daphne' (an EU programme from the Directorate General for Justice and Consumers of the European Commission).