Since it was established in 1987, Paul Hamlyn Foundation has always been committed to helping tackle social injustice.

We are particularly concerned to help those people who experience prejudice and harm early on in their lives, and as a consequence struggle to realise their potential. What motivates us is that many young people experience difficulties that are needless, and avoidable.

That is why our Social Justice programme supports organisations that try to help those on the margins of society build better lives for themselves, and contribute to the communities in which they live. But we also take the view that by listening to young people more carefully, we can find better ways of helping them overcome the challenges they face.

We commissioned this research because we wanted to draw attention to the situation of young ‘undocumented’ migrants living in Britain, and to stimulate debate about how, as a society, we should respond.

This report, produced by researchers at City University and University of Oxford Refugee Studies Centre, gives us an insight into a group of young people about whom there is much anecdote, but very little robust evidence. They tell stories that begin full of hope and expectation, and youthful vigour and enterprise, but often end up being shaped by fear, uncertainty, mental distress and exploitation. Many end up unable to do anything about their predicaments, scraping a living in the hidden economy, open to harm and exploitation, unable to find help when they are in trouble.

The title of the report, ‘No right to dream’, uses the words of one young person, but reflects the sentiment shared by many more – namely, that they had lost so much associated with a normal youth, even imagining a better future was slipping from their grasp.

This situation would seem to be at odds with our core values as a society, and in particular the emphasis we give to protecting and supporting young people. We hope that this report will stimulate wider discussion and debate, and encourage a wide range of organisations to look at ways of helping these young people.

I would like to thank the extremely dedicated team who conducted the research, particularly the community researchers across England whose industry and tenacity has enabled us to hear these compelling accounts of young people’s lives.

Jane Hamlyn

Chair, Paul Hamlyn Foundation