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The tension between, on the one hand, a universal image of childhood embodied for example in the UNCRC and rooted in what Hart terms ‘the project of saving the children’ (Hart, 2006) and, on the other hand, more contextualised, culturally-aware and localised accounts of childhood which challenge the ‘seeming naturalness of a conceptual boundary between childhood and adulthood’ (idem: 7) is recognised in the literature (Boyden 1997, James and Prout 1997, Baker and Hinton 2001, Punch 2003, Heissler 2009, Sigona and Hughes 2010).
Back to top Defining who is a child and who is an irregular migrant is not straightforward.
If we take the definition adopted by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as a starting point, a child is ‘every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier’ (Art 1).
they can legally reside in the UK but work illegally).
In the policy realm, Woodbridge’s study (2005) for the Home Office singles out three distinct categories of irregular immigrants: illegal entrants, overstayers and failed asylum seekers.
The tension between these two policy agendas – that is ensuring the protection of children vis-à-vis controlling immigration – is producing a diverse range of policies and practices, and has significant implications for local authorities and service providers, particularly in relation to the provision of education and healthcare, as well as on minors’ vulnerability in employment as a result of their non-status.