Campaigners call for a judicial review of £1,000+ child citizenship fees
In the midst of more Brexit based confusion, the Home Office is facing a challenge in the courts over the level of fees it charges children to register as a British citizen. Critics of the current charges of more than £1,000 per child, accuse the Home Office of putting a desire to make profit above their ethical responsibilities, and destroying the futures of often vulnerable children.
Thousands of children already living in the UK, who were either born here or moved here at a young age and so are entitled to British citizenship, have to pay the £1,012 fee to register their entitlement for citizenship. The charges apply equally to all children and young people, including those who are disabled or in local authority care, and families living in poverty.
Campaign groups Amnesty International UK and The Project for Registration of Children as British citizens (PRCBC) are seeking a judicial review of the charges in the High Court. The campaigners are seeking an order for the fees to be reduced to £372, an amount which they say would cover all of the Home Office’s costs, and to introduce a waiver scheme to exempt children who cannot afford to pay, and those in local authority care.
Solange Valdez-Symonds, director at PRCBC, has pointed to cases where families have had to go without food in order to pay their children’s registration fees, as well as pointing out that children – in particular, those in care – may not realise that they lose their citizenship entitlement if they don’t register before their 18th birthday. Because many children and families are not aware of this, it leaves them very little time to raise the money they need.
The request for a judicial review is supported by the Scottish National Party MP for Cumbernauld, Stuart McDonald, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, but strongly opposed by the Government. A Home Office statement says that the fee is regularly reviewed and set at a level which takes into account the other costs involved in running the immigration system such as border security; it means, they say, that those who benefit from the UK’s immigration system contribute to the costs of running it.