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Home Office "unduly heavy-handed" when children claim citizenship: report

9 July 2019

Children are being denied their right to claim British nationality because of the UK Government’s "unduly heavy-handed approach" in applying the "good character" test, Parliament's Human Rights Committee claims in a new report published today.

The report scrutinises the Government’s proposed changes to the British Nationality Act 1981 by a remedial order designed to make the law compatible with human rights. The committee welcomes the Government’s draft order which will remedy some of the current issues in the Act, but highlights outstanding concerns. 

At the moment, a police caution or minor offence could mean that children who have spent their whole lives in the UK could be denied British citizenship. The committee's MPs and peers believe it is inappropriate to deny children the right to citizenship because of a mere police caution, which on evidence before the committee is affecting children as young as 10 years old. The committee believes this is an inappropriate application of "good character" and does not allow for adequate consideration of the rights of the child. The Government, it states, was unable to justify to it why the test is so heavily applied to children who have grown up in the UK.

Cost of applying

Another concern is the four figure fees charged to children with a right to British nationality, more than three times the cost recovery for processing such an application. The committee is concerned that disproportionately high fees risk excluding children from more vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds from accessing their rights.

It also believes that the Government has not yet remedied continuing “unacceptable” discrimination based on whether a child’s father or mother was British, and on the marital status of the child’s parents in relation to British Overseas Territories Citizenship. The report calls on the Home Office to review its proposed changes to the law and act "without delay" to ensure a fair, non-discriminatory approach to UK nationality law.

Click here to access the committee's report.

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