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Hundreds of children refused British citizenship on character grounds


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A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 415 children aged 10-18 have been refused British citizenship on character grounds. The power to refuse citizenship on character grounds was controversially extended from adults to children as young as 10 in 2010. The refusals include 25 of children aged 10-13, 95 of children aged 14-15 and 300 of children aged 16-17. It is the refusals of children aged 10-13 that are most obviously absurd but all the refusals are highly questionable on moral grounds.

What could the 25 children aged 10-13 have done to be refused on character grounds? Or, to look at it another way, what child can truly be said to to be of “good character” (the statutory requirement) at that age anyway?

Citizenship is turning into a key battleground for protecting individual rights. Citizens enjoy reasonable protection against arbitrary interference with their rights by the State. Non citizens do not. The State is responding by refusing citizenship to wider class of people and by taking it away from those it considers “fifth columnists”. Take a look at my write up from the launch of a new practitioner book on the issue and the recent post on the quiet tightening up of good character requirements with the effect of excluding refugees.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


8 Responses

  1. The tendency to behave as if non-citizens don’t have rights can only be exacerbated if the Tories/UKIP succeed in abolishing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with the British Bill of Rights- which, whatever it may actually say, gives the clear impression from the title that it is “British” Rights that matter.

    But of course it is already true for many purposes: there is no right to a fair trial in immigration matters, for example.

  2. Human Rights Bad. British Rights Good.
    Judicial Review Bad. Rights of Appeal Bad.
    European Law Bad. ECHR Decisions Bad.
    The jurisprudence, precedence and laws prior to 2010 Bad.
    There is obviously much to look forward to in this anniversary of Magna Carts.

    1. I’m not hugely sympathetic to passive aggressive comments. What do you want from me? There are a lot of injustices that don’t get coverage on this blog.

  3. My apologies if I appear to be passive aggressive, it wasn’t meant that way. I just really wish you would throw illegitimate children who are affected by citizenship discrimination a bone and call out the guilty parties who called us a “step into the unknown” and who for decades denied us the right to live in the UK, many of us born and raised in the UK. 25,000 is a lot of refusals for children in a twelve year period. There is totally something suspicious going on behind those numbers. I have had numerous people contact me confirming that they were denied registration, all while we were told for decades that registration was fail proof – and there are the numbers to prove that it never was.

    I referred you to someone, but unfortunately she had already ran out of time and money, and her child had to take a one way plane ride from the UK to South Africa – because Section 65 is taking too long to commence. If Section 65 is not commenced before the general election and Labour win, do you really think, given their history towards us, they will commence those amendments?

    1. This blog tends to be driven by my case work experience, reported cases, new laws that are passed and reports that I see and have time to write up. The appalling gender discrimination of historic British citizenship laws isn’t something that often comes up by those routes, I’m sorry, so it may be somewhat overlooked here. I’ve certainly praised section 65 in my material on the Immigration Act 2014, and I have followed and materially supported the brilliant work on this issue by ILPA and Lord Avebury, who were responsible for the introduction of what became section 65.

      The last Labour Government did a lot to correct historic citizenship injustices but did not finish the job. Section 65 is not perfect either but goes further. I have no idea if or when we might see it commenced, though, I’m sorry.

      If you want to build a coalition to do further work on this issue, I’m very sympathetic and will of course cover it but I’d suggest going about it rather differently to your original comment, and perhaps even your more recent one (“do you really think…” in response to a point I haven’t made anywhere) and the highly aggressive Twitter comments I think I’ve seen from you.

  4. Fair points, and I’ve taken them in (and admittedly, have eaten crow). As you can understand, it’s frustrating being discriminated against, and this issue doesn’t garner the public outrage that other family oriented immigration causes get (because the public is still uncomfortable with illegitimacy). I would like to correct a point though, I completely adore Alison Harvey and Lord Avebury (they can do no wrong in my eyes) for their continued hard work, and it was amazing to watch Lord Avebury’s amendments being agreed to back in May. I will never take their hard work away from them. However, in the case of the current government, it was actually Damian Green who, after being asked by Julian Huppert, triggered the needed government backing that made this all possible.

    That said, I am convinced the last Labour government, in their view, have finished the job correcting historic citizenship injustices. If you know differently, color me surprised. If Section 65 doesn’t commence this Parliament, and Labour win the election, I doubt we will ever see it commenced. If Section 65 does commence, we get a double whammy when we want to bring our spouses over and face rejection again, due to the current income requirements.

    Thank you.