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Foreign travel ban on asylum seekers

Where do refugees and asylum seekers stand when their school organises a trip abroad? Can they go - or must they be left behind?

This was the dilemma faced by teachers in Luton planning a five-day trip to Spain involving a coach journey through France. There were a number of pupils who were asylum seekers, some of whom had been waiting for a decision on their status for years. One family had been advised that their daughter, a pupil at the school for four years, could travel on the standard group passport. The family paid a deposit, which the school duly passed on to the travel company.

Unfortunately, when the school checked the advice given to the family, they found it inaccurate. The Passport Service confirmed that only UK citizens can be listed on a group passport. It was too late to claim a returned deposit from the travel company and the school was forced to reimburse the parents from its funds.

But, in some circumstances, refugees can travel abroad, so what do teachers need to know before organising a trip? Asylum-seeker families in the UK have an immigration status known as "temporary admission" and are waiting for a decision from the Home Office on their asylum application - they will not have passports or travel documents.

If asylum seekers leave the UK they are treated as having abandoned their asylum claim or appeal. This could mean a pupil being refused re-entry. So it is not a good idea to include asylum-seeker pupils in overseas visits.

But a different situation exists for refugees and for those who have been given leave to remain in the UK. These children can be issued with travel documents. One type of document is a refugee passport, another document functions as a certificate of identity.

These temporary documents will allow children to travel to most European Union countries without endangering their right of re-entry into the UK .

But teachers need to establish the exact status of the child, which may be different from that of their parents.

The children need to travel under their own documentation, which could take some time to obtain. And some EU countries - France is high on the list - are strict, requiring a visa before admitting the child.

Teachers should also be aware that children travelling under these kinds of temporary documents may experience delays at immigration control in some EU countries. They are unlikely to be waved through in the same way as a group travelling under a UK group passport.

But it can be done. Once the Home Office has taken a decision on their status, children can accompany their peers on most trips, but schools are strongly advised to double check the paperwork before setting out.

Further advice:The DfES: Home Office: Refugee Council advice line: 0207 582 4947;

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