The Home Office will continue charging over £1,000 for each child application for British citizenship, the UK’s highest court has decided.
The Supreme Court’s decision this month sparked outrage amongst lawyers and campaigners, as a four-year legal fight against the fees resulted in allowing Home secretary Priti Patel to make a £640 profit on every child applying.
Even in cases where children were born in the UK, some have to undergo the process of obtaining UK citizenship because their parents have a certain immigration status.
Down to MPs or peers to reduce or scrap the fees, court says
And although the court admitted the amount a child’s application costs is almost three times the administration cost, which is £372, it decided it’s down to MPs or peers to decide whether it’s right for children applications to be charged according to the processing costs.
The court’s decision comes as even more as a shock as it admitted the importance of British citizenship to “one’s sense of identity and belonging”. It said it is “assisting people, and not least young people in their sensitive teenage years, to feel part of the wider community. It allows a person to participate in the political life of the local community and the country at large.”
Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s migrant rights director, hit out at the decision to allow the extortionate citizenship fees to carry on, according to The New Statesman: “This fee deprives thousands of children of their citizenship rights, yet the Home Office has chosen to keep overcharging, despite the alienation and exclusion this is causing.”
‘Reductive approach to rights of vulnerable’
One of the lawyers from Amnesty, Sam Genen, also expressed his disappointment at the Supreme Court’s decision and criticised the “reductive approach to the rights of the vulnerable”.
“There is a general sense that the court seems less interested [in] individual rights and expertise,” he added.
Amnesty, together with The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC), had appealed a ruling by the Court of Appeal in 2021, which came after the High Court’s 2020 decision that the fee alienated and excluded children affected by current citizenship costs.
Both lower courts reached the conclusion that Patel did not give consideration to the children’s best interests when decided the price.
But the UK Parliament could change the unfair fees through the Nationality and Borders bill, by reducing or scrapping the fee for children who cannot afford the costs or are in care – and the House of Lords tried last week to reduce the fee to £372.
Last week, The London Economic spoke to a woman who, despite having spent most of her life in the UK, went through several hoops to have her rights recognised as a British citizen and said she paid around £6,000 in the process – only to be rejected by the Home Office.