The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has criticized Greenwich Council for failing to properly support a young asylum seeker who has been denied leave to remain in the UK.
The LGO said the Royal Borough of Greenwich made a number of errors when handling the immigration status of a Nigerian teenager it was looking after.
The council’s failings meant the girl, who is now an adult, has lost a place at university as she cannot access Higher Education while her status remains uncertain and is also unable to work.
The Council not only delayed in appointing a solicitor for the girl to apply for leave to remain in the UK, but also refused to pay the necessary fees. This made the young woman fail to make a valid application before she turned 18.
The girl panicked as she was approaching 18 and sent in her application without checking it with the solicitor. The application was returned as incomplete. By the time she resubmitted the full application she had passed her 18th birthday.
This had significant consequences. As a child, she would have had to be resident in the UK for only seven years to qualify, however, as an adult she needed to have spent half her life living in the country, and prove there were significant obstacles preventing her from returning to Nigeria.
The Home Office refused her application for leave to remain but it has recently agreed she can make an appeal.
The girl believes if it was not for the council’s errors her application for leave to remain would have been made as a child and might have had more chance of success.
“When acting as corporate parents, councils need to provide the support and advice necessary to help the transition out of care and into adulthood. This is particularly crucial for children who do not have the extended family support and community ties that other children might rely upon,” Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said. “In this case, because of a number of mistakes and misunderstandings, this girl was left in a vulnerable position at a critical age which affected her life chances.”
The LGO has asked the Council to apologise to the girl and pay her “£5,000 to acknowledge the distress caused by its failure to provide consistent support and advice to her as a ‘looked after’ child.”
The LGO also asked the Council to “provide specialist advice and guidance to social work staff on the different requirements of immigration rules as they apply to children seeking asylum and those seeking leave to remain, and on the council’s duties in this area.”
The Council has accepted the LGO’s recommendations.