In My View: Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for Streatham

I was recently drawn for my first ever Prime Minister’s Question and had the opportunity to push the Government on the issue of children’s citizenship fees.

Across the UK, hundreds of thousands of British children have been priced out of citizenship.

Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro Addy

It’s thanks to the brilliant work of campaign groups like Citizens UK Lambeth Citizens, Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) and Amnesty International that this issue has been brought to light.

In 2019, there were 421,000 children born in the UK who were not registered as British citizens.

In the same year, a further 177,000 children raised in the UK for at least 10 years were
unregistered.

These children go on to experience real difficulties in later life, falling victim to hostile Environment measures.

Just like the Windrush generation, they face barriers when it comes to accessing healthcare, taking up employment, attending university, renting a home and opening a bank account.

The most immediate stumbling block to most families seeking to register their children is the sheer cost.

This has risen from £35 in 1983 to £1,012 in 2020, increasing at almost 10 times the rate of inflation and almost doubling in the last decade alone.

The Home Office claims each application comes with £372 administrative costs. The remaining £640 is pure profit.

These same households face higher levels of hardship and poverty.

Some families also live with the devastating No Recourse to Public Funds condition, preventing them from accessing basic services.

It cannot be right that the Home Office is able to turn a 64 per cent profit while British
children from poor households are deprived of citizenship.

Over the last 10 years, the unchecked rise of fees has driven a sharp decline in registrations, leaving even more children facing barriers across many areas of their lives.

We need to look at drastically reducing fees, introducing waivers and ensuring the burden of such costs is not passed on to cash-strapped local authorities.

In December 201, the High Court ruled that such charges for citizenship were illegal.

Unsurprisingly the Home Office have appealed this ruling and a decision is pending.

I was glad that Boris Johnson committed to looking at this policy again in light of my recent question and will be holding him to this.

These children are no less British than he or I and the Home Office must start acting like it.

 


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