Legal aid for unaccompanied child migrants will be reinstated after a five-year legal battle between the government and a leading children’s charity.
In a written ministerial statement, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer QC confirmed that legal aid would be extended to cover immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated children. The move followed a legal challenge and long-running campaign by The Children’s Society after the removal of public funding in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
Frazer said her department had examined evidence presented as part of the case and data on funding applications.
‘Based on the distinct nature of the cohort in question, and of our data regarding them, I have decided to bring these cases into the scope of legal aid to ensure access to justice,’ she said.
Research by The Children’s Society in 2015 suggested thousands of children had been denied access to the law since LASPO came into force, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and homelessness.
The Children’s Society Chief Executive, Matthew Reed said: ‘This is an important change in policy which will go a long way to protecting some of the most marginalised and vulnerable young people in our communities.’
He said legal aid was an ‘absolute lifeline’ for children who are subject to immigration control and who are in this country on their own.