The Home Office is being challenged over a £1,012 fee which is imposed on children to register as British citizens. The High Court is looking at legality of a fee described by the current Home Secretary as ‘a huge amount of money’ and, from which, only a small amount covers the administration costs of the scheme.
Solange Valdez-Symonds and Steve Symonds of the charity the Project for Registration of Children have argued in LegalVoice that it is ‘a scandal’ that the Home Office seeks to make a profit by ‘selling’ citizenship to young people. According to the group, only £372 of the fee represents the cost of administering registration. The fee applies to all children including those in local authority care, including children living in poverty, the disabled, and the stateless.
In this week’s judicial review, the PRCBC will argue that by imposing a ‘profit-making element’ on children’s citizenship the Home Office has acted unlawfully because it is under a duty ‘to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and to act in children’s best interests unless those interests are clearly outweighed by other serious public interest factors’.
When Parliament passed the British Nationality Act 1981, birth in the UK no longer meant automatic entitlement to British citizenship. Instead the Act provided for those with a ‘close personal connection’ with the UK to acquire citizenship. For example, the Act included an entitlement for children born in the UK to register on reaching 10 years independently of their parents’ status. Parliament recognised that a general discretion for the Home Secretary to register any child as British was also necessary, to ensure citizenship for other children connected to the UK.
As Amnesty UK explains (here), the policy ‘jeopardizes a child’s start in life and also undermines their future – their children won’t be recognised as British either’. ‘These children don’t know they’re not British, and are in danger of facing the same injustices and marginalisation as those who came to be known as the Windrush generation.’
Permission was granted yesterday. According to a Guardian report yesterday, Mrs Justice Yip, sitting in the high court, warned PRCBC that it faced an ‘uphill struggle‘.