Hostile environment data-sharing

Liberty calls on parenst to boycott today’s school census as Government attempts to build foreign children lists

Posted on 19 Jan 2017

Liberty is calling on parents and guardians to thwart Government attempts to use pupil data to aid deportations by refusing to hand over children’s nationalities and countries of birth in today’s school census.

For the second time, the termly census of schoolchildren in England will ask for pupils’ birth countries and nationalities – a move which Liberty and other campaigners believe is an attempt to aid deportation of families by building “foreign children lists”, which can be trawled by the Home Office.

Liberty and campaign group Against Borders for Children wrote to all schools this week urging them to inform parents and guardians that they are under no legal obligation to provide their children’s birth countries and nationality, and have a right to retract information already given in the autumn survey.

Liberty fears data-gathering will lead families with uncertain migration statuses to pull their children out of school or fail to enrol them, robbing them of an education and putting their safety at risk.

Refuse, retract, resist

The Department for Education (DfE) initially claimed data gathered from the census was for internal use only. However, last month a leaked data-sharing agreement revealed the department had agreed to give the personal details of up to 1,500 schoolchildren to the Home Office each month, specifically to “create a hostile environment” for migrants.

While the Government has promised nationality and country of birth data will not be handed over to the Home Office, it remains likely this information will be used to increase the “matching” of data between the two departments – leading to information such as families’ addresses being handed over.

In addition, the agreement not to hand information over directly is not protected in law and can be changed at any time.

Inadequate government guidance has already led to instances of schools wrongly informing parents they were legally required to give the data, demanding copies of passports and asking parents to confirm whether their child is a refugee or asylum seeker.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “This underhanded policy is a nasty new low for a Government which thinks nothing of spreading fear, division and discrimination through every part of daily life. Every child on UK shores has a right to education – and that right isn’t dependent on the accident of their own or their parents’ place of birth.

“Clearly we can’t expect our ministers to stick up for children’s rights. But to parents and guardians who believe classrooms should be places of learning, growth and hope for the future, our message today is clear: refuse, retract, resist. If enough people refuse to be complicit in building these foreign children lists, the Government won’t be able to justify harvesting this data.”

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