Report finds children as young as ten being denied right to British citizenship
Parliament's human rights committee says nationality law 'good character' test should not be applied to children
09 July 2019
Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights has today published a report looking at the application of the 'good character' test under current British Nationality Law and the Government's proposed changes.
You can read the 34-page report here.
The Committee is particularly concerned by the effect of the good character requirement on children, and it finds that the rights of the child—and in particular the requirement that the best interests of the child be a primary consideration—are not being respected in the application of nationality law to children living in the UK.
According to the Committee, evidence shows that it is affecting children as young as 10 years old who have lived all their lives in the UK.
The report states: "Good character requirements were introduced into British nationality law initially only to apply to adults who sought to become British citizens through naturalisation, generally already having a connection with another country and having moved to the UK as adults. In the last decade or so these good character requirements have been extended to apply to children who are entitled to be British citizens, due to their close connection with the UK. Many of these children were born in the UK, have lived in the UK their whole lives (or nearly their whole lives) and regard themselves as British— and indeed anyone meeting them would assume they were British. The Committee is concerned that an unduly heavy-handed approach to the good character requirement is depriving children who have lived in the UK all of their lives from their right to British citizenship. Indeed, most of the children affected do not even have a criminal conviction."
The report also raises serious concerns over access to justice, and notes: "cuts in legal aid and access to legal advice, in conjunction with other measures, mean that it is now harder than ever for individuals to obtain the advice that they need to be able to access justice and enforce their human rights."
The Committee adds that "the cost of fees for children entitled to British citizenship are so high as to risk depriving some children of their right to British citizenship".
In conclusion, the Committee finds that urgent action is required and the Government should act without delay to ensure a fair, non-discriminatory approach to UK nationality law that is also in line with the rights of the child.
The Committee concludes: "It is inappropriate to apply the good character requirement to young children with a right to be British, where the United Kingdom is the only country they know and where they have grown up their whole lives here.
"We note in its response to the Committee that the Home Office has again been unable to explain or justify why the good character test is applied to children who have grown up all their lives in the UK and know no other country. We are concerned that this policy is preventing children whose only real connection is with the UK from becoming British—contrary to the intention behind the 'entitlement' route to British citizenship for children who have grown up in the UK. In particular, we are most concerned that this is affecting children as young as ten years old who have lived all of their lives in the UK. The Government should review the application of the good character test to children with a right to British citizenship who have grown up in the UK, in particular, carefully reflecting its obligation to consider the best interests of the child when considering the impact on children with such a close connection to the UK."
On fees, the report concludes: "Home Office fees for children who have a right to be British should be proportionate to the service being offered and should be priced at a rate that is accessible for children accessing their rights. This is not the case at the moment since fees for children are three times more than the cost of the service—four-figure fees merely to register an existing right to be British are unacceptable. Disproportionately high fees should not exclude children from more vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds from accessing their rights."