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Home Office to issue woman with British passport after 18 year battle


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Even by Home Office standards, the decision to defend the case of R (Nmai) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWHC 1139 (Admin) looks particularly pointless. The claimant had an incredibly strong case and the judge allowed the claim with little hesitation. By allowing it to get to a final hearing the Home Office wasted the time and resources of everyone involved.

The case was about the department’s longstanding refusal to issue the claimant with a British passport. Since 2002, officials had denied the identity of the claimant and refused to accept that she has British nationality.

There was no question at any stage that the claimant’s brother is a British citizen and that he had a sister, Wendy Nmai, who would also be entitled to British citizenship. The sole question therefore was whether the claimant was Wendy Nmai or not.

The claimant sent the Home Office medical evidence based on genetic analysis in 2005 which proved beyond doubt that she and her brother are siblings. This was confirmed with further DNA testing in 2019 (“the likelihood of their full siblingship was 99.999995%”).

The Home Office response on both occasions was that this did not prove her nationality, just that she was the sibling of a British national. The decision-maker failed to acknowledge that, once it was accepted that she was the sibling of her brother, the only logical conclusion could be that she was Wendy and therefore a British citizen.

Anthony Elleray QC, sitting a deputy High Court judge, acknowledged that the claimant had engaged in some dubious behaviour by re-entering the UK using someone else’s passport in the 1990s. (Given how long it has taken for the claimant to vindicate her entitlement to a passport, one can understand why she might have been reluctant to apply for one from outside the UK.) But he held that these matters did not undermine the other evidence pointing towards the claimant being Wendy Nmai:

the Claimant has satisfied me that she is WN and was born here in Birmingham on 31 December 1973, the name by which she has always been known in the UK. The doubts relating to her childhood records in Nigeria and her credibility to which I have referred, do not, in my judgment, undermine that conclusion. I consider the Nigerian records can be relied upon by the Claimant as consistent with her claim to be WN, albeit they have questionable weight when viewed alone. The Claimant and [her brother] appeared to me to be giving their relevant evidence in a straightforward manner, which did not seek to deceive.

Accordingly, I consider I should declare the Claimant as a British citizen born in Birmingham, UK on 31 December 1973 and is, on the evidence before me, entitled to a United Kingdom passport.

So after 18 years of applications, Ms Nmai can finally expect to be granted a passport recognising her nationality.

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Alex Schymyck

Alex Schymyck

Alex is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers