Migrant action group 'NELMA' protests Haringey Council’s cruel treatment of destitute childr
North East London Migrant Action group (NELMA) protested yesterday against Haringey Council’s failure to meet its obligations to destitute children and their families.
The protest began outside of Haringey’s tube station in Wood Green at 6pm and made its way to Haringey Council’s Cabinet meeting at the civic center.
NELMA said it has uncovered systematic “mishandling” of cases with the Council refusing to provide urgently-needed interim support or even conduct an initial assessment of the children’s needs.
Destitute families with no recourse to public funds have often been turned away by the council.
"They were so horrible to me and my little one," said Agnes, one of the migrants refused help by the council.
"I was seven months pregnant and crying down the phone. They refused to come down to see me for the whole day," said another.
The cases documented by NELMA suggest that migrant families frequently emerged from meetings with Haringey Council frightened, exhausted and reduced to tears and that Home Office officials were often present at meetings with social workers.
The Council have a legal obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children in need within their area.
A child’s immigration status, or that of their parents, should have no bearing on their right to food and shelter.
Other allegations include council workers using "aggressive" and "racist language" and threatening families with deportation.
"I was afraid they would deport me. They gave me removal papers and pressured me to sign them before I had even had a chance to read them", said one of the testimonials of the cases documented by NELMA.
"I have been called […] unprintable names [including] ‘bush girl’. My daughter was shouted at," said another one.
"They asked me to do a DNA test to prove I was the mother of my children," said a third one.
NELMA says Haringey social workers also threatened to take children away from their parents and put them into care and falsely claiming that they were not entitled to support on account of their immigration status.
According to the information provided by The Children's Society, a national charity that helps children and young people in need, local authorities are "increasingly putting barriers in place before supporting families" and "are using new methods to reduce access to this support".
In a report they published in April 2016, titled "Making Life Impossible: How the needs of destitute migrant children are going unmet", the charity said that only 38% of those who applied for support from their local authority were supported.
“We estimate that there are approximately 144,000 undocumented children living in England and Wales, with the most children being located in London and the West Midlands. These children and their parents face extreme levels of destitution and risk which are multiple and varied including living in unsafe accommodation, being unable to afford food and engaging in informal sexual relationships for small amounts of money."
"The Government is required to protect all children who are in the UK, regardless of where they come from," said Matthew Reed QC, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society.
Despite every effort to give Haringey Council a right to reply, their press office has never responded to these allegations.