Theresa May became the UK Prime Minister after a dominant victory backed by half of all Conservative MPs. May came as an obvious choice by the Party because, as the former Home Secretary, she has proved her dedication to tackle immigration issues and protect the UK borders, which is in short the essence of the Leave Campaign . During her six long years at the Home Office, May was always tough on migration regulations. But as it was revealed in leaked Cabinet Office letters recently, May was willing to resort to unconventional mechanisms in her illegal immigration crackdown to achieve her objectives (which she didn't). She wanted to go low, using children to capture their undocumented parents. As Home Secretary, May suggested schools could withdraw places offered to children if their families were found to be living in the country illegally. The Home Office also wanted schools to carry out immigration checks. Even though the recommendations were not taken up on due to strong reactions from governmental representatives out of the concerns that it could be a politically unpopular move, they give us some clues to what the UK will be like under the May administration.
According to current laws, all under 16s have the right to a school place, regardless of their parents’ migration status. This allows children and young people the rights to have an education by their virtue as human beings, not their citizenship status. By denying them this basic right, the government would cast these young children as something less than. May has already made it clear that she didn’t want any more child refugees after French Prime Minister urged May to take Britain’s share of the 1,500 asylum-seeking children left in Calais. The leaked information has come to show even if they were lucky enough to manage to get into British soils through other ways, they would soon be subject to discrimination and treated as collateral damage of May’s “war on illegal immigrants”.
The policies were not implemented, but the ideas of them are there. With the right political push, and with the already existing “moral panic” exacerbated by right wing media, May government could easily rally the public support needed to pursue this unethical form of border control. It is not surprising that many Conservatives wanted to opt-out from European Human Rights Convention, making it one of the key issues of Brexit agenda. This could mean several things for child education and child development. It could lead to some children not being registered for school because of the real or perceived fear of deportation. When your family’s livelihood is on the line, education becomes a luxury, which presents another problem. Young people, out of school, are likely to be involved in criminal activities. In 2004, the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey reported that an estimated six per cent of young people aged 10 to 19 were classified as belonging to delinquent groups. As they are marginalised from society, they are vulnerable to radical groups and become the stereotypes that right wing extremists impose on them, creating a wider problem – child poverty among refugee children.
In the September UN Summits on movements of migrants and refugees, it was reported that there were currently 28 million children displaced by conflict and persecution. More than 12 million children will end up out of school. The UK government did little to address the plight of displaced children. The Prime Minister justified the government’s inaction by insisting that it was countries’ right to protect their borders and refugees should seek asylum in the first safe country. When children in refugee camps living in inhumane conditions and suffer from physical and mental health issues, it is against the West’s own values of human rights and freedom and equality to justify its cold-heartedness by placing the blame on other countries. The UK should be better than that, yet this is the government’s current policy to deal with the refugee crisis. Refusing to take in more refugees, at the same time treating the ones in the country with an atmosphere of discrimination and suspicion, the UK is only creating the breeding ground for both segregation and consequential poverty. To ensure the British human values, the government must start at the roots – the young, regardless of what passport they might have or not have. The UK, led by Theresa May, is neglecting the moral dimensions of the child refugee crisis, and will soon witness its policies being back-fired.