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Families caught up in Britain’s immigration system treated as ‘collateral damage,’ report finds

FAMILIES who have loved ones living with an insecure immigration status face “extreme and wide-ranging harm,” with children especially affected, according to a new report. 

Researchers found that partners and children, including British citizens, are made poorer, sicker, unhappier and experience a diminished sense of belonging because of the immigration status of a loved one.

The findings, detailed in a report published on Tuesday by the University of Birmingham, laid bare the devastating impact of Britain’s immigration system on families. 

As people with insecure status cannot work and must often fork out huge sums for legal costs to fight deportations, the report, which looked at 30 families, identified cases where people were forced to take out crisis loans or even appealing for baby milk on social media. 

For children who faced a parent being deported the findings were particularly bleak, with their standard of living, education and mental health all worsening. The report also claimed that some older children were self-harming.

Speaking at the report’s online launch event, lead author Dr Melanie Griffiths said: “People who are not themselves subject to immigration rules, are suffering significant harm … and this harm is being done knowingly and deliberately by the government.”

She said that her research showed that family members were treated as “collateral damage” and “punished almost for association with foreigners.” 

Dr Griffiths said that for family members with British citizenship, their treatment by the Home Office “shook their feelings of Britishness and belonging,” with some reporting that they had left the country “in disgust” at how their foreign partners had been treated by the Home Office. 

“The children also end up feeling less British and resentful of their government, and several parents told me they really worried about the impact on their children,” she added. 

A second report, launched at the same event on Tuesday chaired by Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti, also showed the “severe” mental health consequences of deportation on children. 

Speaking at the event, Bail for Immigration Detainees lead researcher Rudy Schulkind, who authored the second report, said that while the Home Office had a legal duty to promote and safeguard the welfare of children, this was “routinely disregarded.” 

Under laws introduced in 2014, families fighting deportation of a loved one must prove that a child’s separation from a parent would be “unduly harsh” or excessively cruel. 

“So in other words, UK law currently sanctions cruelty to children providing it’s not excessive,” he said. 

Campaigners said that the harm inflicted by the government’s deportation regime on families was a “national scandal” that has been overlooked.

The Home Office was approached for comment. 

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