The Home Office has been accused of ‘shameless profiteering’ in a legal challenge to the one-off fee of more than a thousand pounds to register a child as a British citizen. The case, which begins a three-day hearing in the high court today, has been brought by two children (known as A and O) and could benefit estimated 120,000 people in the UK.
According to the Project For Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC), the legal charity behind the judicial review, the government is making £640 profit for each child registered – it reckons that the administrative processing cost is only £372 per application. For background – see here.
‘Tens of thousands of children who were born in this country are being charged exorbitant fees to register their citizenship rights,’ commented PRCBC’s director Solange Valdez-Symonds. ‘The futures of these children are slowly and silently being chipped away. Such barefaced profiteering from children by the Home Office is utterly shameful. Children’s rights are not for sale. We hope the High Court challenge will rightly bring an end to this injustice.’
The campaigners are calling on the Home Office to set the registration fee at ‘no more than the administrative cost’, to introduce a fee waiver for children who cannot afford the fee; and provide a fee exemption for children in local authority care.
In a statement submitted as part of the proceedings, O, who was born in England in 2007, said: ‘I have never travelled to another country. I don’t want to tell my friends that I am not British like them because I’m scared. I worry that if my friends find out, they won’t understand that I really am British like them.’
‘I enjoy playing netball for my school team. My team have been abroad twice for netball tournaments, but I could not travel because I do not have my British passport. was born here and feel all of me is British. This is my home. I’ve got nowhere else but here.’
Campaigners from Amnesty are due hand in 30,000-strong petition to Home Office calling for an end to the fee. They will be joined by some of the children affected by the fee, including 16-year-old Daniel who came to the UK with his mother when he was three years-old. ‘My mother saved what she could but sometimes she didn’t eat properly so she could do this,’ he said. ‘At the time we had some support from the council but my mother was not then permitted to work except unpaid as a volunteer with a charity. It has been really difficult for my mother.’