UK immigrant families are being 'covertly identified' by their children's schools

UK immigrant families are being 'covertly identified' by their children's schools
Activists have warned that families may inadvertently be helping the government locate immigrant families by giving out data they don't need to.
2 min read
05 October, 2017
A national census of school children is gathering data on nationalities [AFP]
Hundreds of thousands of parents will hand over personal information to the UK government this week that could later be used against the child's best interests, campaigners have warned.

A national census of school children across the UK is gathering data on nationalities and countries of birth – data which has historically been shared with deportation officials.

"The data is being used for an improper purpose," said Gracie Bradley, Advocacy & Policy Officer at Liberty, a UK advocacy group.

"If you fill in the form then potentially you might have immigration enforcement at your door a few months later – that's the problem."

The Home Office said in December that it sends the Department for Education (DfE) a list of families who are suspected to have overstayed their visa. The DfE will then reply with up-to-date contact information that can be used to locate these families and deport them.

"A lot of teachers don't know that this data goes into a central government database – and is given to the Home Office," said Bradley.

Against Borders for Children is campaigning to let parents know that they can opt out of giving information on a child's nationality or country of birth as this is information is not mandatory.

Information on children's ethnicity was only recorded on the UK's National Pupil Database for the first time last year, sparking a nationwide backlash.

A group of 20 UK charities wrote a joint letter to the UK's Education Secretary, Justine Greening, voicing their concerns that this data may be misused.

"Without assurances to the contrary, our grave concern is that the new data collected will be shared with the Home Office and therefore potentially used for immigration enforcement purposes," the letter said.

A freedom of information request by Defend Digital Me found that the National Pupil Database was accessed 21 times by the police and 18 times by the Home Office.

As a result of this public outcry, the DfE agreed to not share information on nationality with the Home Office, but this agreement is not legally binding and could theoretically be broken at any time.

A spokesperson for the DfE was not immediately available to give comment.