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120,000 stateless children living in UK

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120,000 stateless children living in UK

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Education, Health, Housing, Local Government

120,000 stateless children living in UK 120,000 stateless children living in UK

There are up to 120,000 stateless children living in the UK who are unable to work legally and who are not entitled to benefits or housing.

The BBC's Inside Out London programme reported that one in ten of the capital's children are currently stateless, with many living on the streets. Some have been reduced to sexual exploitation, whilst others are lured into joining crime gangs just to be able to eat and get shelter.

One girl, who was smuggled into the UK from Libya to live with guardians who subsequently abandoned her, said: "I sometimes have to do things that make me feel sick and ashamed, just for a few pounds, a few pennies."

Many of the under-18s have been abandoned by their parents or guardians and have no access to personal documents, meaning they are not entitled to the benefits of citizenship - including the right to work.

Jennifer Blake runs Safe'n'Sound, a Peckham-based project that has worked with over 600 children who lack citizenship and who find themselves living on the streets.

Jennifer told 24dash: "These children do not have passports or National Insurance numbers so the authorities will not deal with them. Even if a child is born in the UK, if their mother doesn't have citizenship, then neither do they. They are classified as illegal immigrants."

Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 places a duty on councils to find a place in the care system for every child in need, regardless of their citizenship status. However, Tony, a homeless 17-year-old, has been turned away by numerous councils because he had no passport or because they wanted to see a letter from his father that confirmed his identity, which he was unable to obtain. As a result, Tony has been living in a Peckham park using a bench as a bed for the last two years.

Jennifer, who has worked with Tony, said: "What is written is not reality. The councils demand to see documents that the children cannot produce. So they don't help them."

Inside Out's presenter, David Akinsanya, said: "These children live a twilight world of literally Dickensian poverty. No home. No family and with not even the legal right to be in the country".

We are currently awaiting a response from the UK Border Agency.

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