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9 April 2018

New rules preventing young asylum seekers from studying

Asylum seekers who are awaiting a Home Office decisions cannot work, must often reside as a fixed address, and report regularly to a Home Office outpost. In addition, it appears that new guidance introduced since January 2018 is also preventing young asylum seekers from studying, the Observer reports

“Significant numbers” of young refugees have been told in the last few weeks that they are not allowed to study – just weeks before some had been due to take important exams, in some cases. Some asylum seekers have only discovered they are under a study ban after charity workers examined their new paperwork and noticed that a box had been ticked.

“The Home Office are simply issuing new paperwork without explaining that changes have been made,” said Hannah Baynes, a solicitor with Duncan Lewis. “That means that if people do not notice and keep studying then they are in danger of breaching their bail conditions.” Those breaches can lead to asylum appeals being rejected, she said.

This situation arises even though the government had pledged not to introduce a “blanket study ban” for asylum seekers, saying decisions would be made on a case by case basis. Yet campaigners such as Kamena Dorling, head of policy at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, argue that prohibitions from studying have become “a matter of course and without sufficient examination of their circumstances and the impact.”

The Observer features the stories of two young Afghans seeking asylum in the UK who received news that they could no longer study. One of them is Abdul, who has been in the UK for 10 years . He “had been offered places at several universities but, without leave to remain, he could not get a student loan. He received a full scholarship from a well-respected London university and started studying in September 2017. He was in the midst of first-year exam revision when he went to sign in last month. He was given new paperwork and told he was no longer allowed to study.”

Abdul’s response is heartbreaking: “I have worked so so hard to get in to uni. I waited for four years, all my friends had gone and graduated already. I’ve never done anything wrong. It is just devastating to be honest. It is the only freedom I had and now it has been taken away from me.”

As the Observer concludes, “banning young people from study can have knock-on effects, especially those that have been in care as unaccompanied children. Post care, a personal adviser and some financial assistance, is provided to those over 18, but only if they can prove they are studying. Stopping asylum seeking young people from studying effectively stops this support as well.”