Hundreds of stateless children live on UK city streets

Children without nationality are denied access to social housing - and some are forced into prostitution

LAST UPDATED AT 12:08 ON Mon 5 Nov 2012

Hundreds of homeless children in the UK’s cities have no nationality, and are consequently barred from education and social housing. A report by the BBC’s current affairs programme Inside Out will reveal today that some children are forced into prostitution just to eat.

Stateless children are at their most numerous in the capital. But the problems caused by statelessness are not limited to London, says Chris Nash of charity Asylum Aid. Charities have reported that there are stateless children in Birmingham, Leeds, Coventry, Nottingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Oxford and Cardiff.

Many of these children entered the country legally, but were never officially registered. Without national documentation, they are barred from access to education and social housing.

“To date, we’ve been approached by over 600 young people,” says Jennifer Blake of Peckham Project Safe’n’Sound. “It’s a big issue.”

Lacking shelter and support, these youngsters - some as young as 14 - are increasingly drawn to crime. Ugandan-born Tony, a 17-year-old who has made his bed on buses since his father kicked him out, said: “If you are hungry you need money. But if I steal I end up going in prison and that’s not me, I don’t want that.”

Retrospective application for UK citizenship “can be virtually impossible”, reports the BBC. Without contact to their families, children like Tony struggle to provide adequate proof of their identities to immigration officials.

For stateless girls, sex work represents an avenue to survival. One 17-year-old, who fled Libya without her family in 2009, said: “I have to do things that make me sick and ashamed for a few pounds, sometimes even pennies - just so I can eat or get somewhere to sleep for one night.”

In a bid to dodge responsibility for the youths, some councils might be attempting to assess children as older than they are. Solicitor Amara Ahmad told the BBC that she is representing several children in legal actions against councils for this reason.

  • Inside Out is broadcast at 7.30pm tonight on BBC1 in the London and south-east region.

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