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CAMPAIGNERS are back in the courts this week to challenge a £1,012 citizenship fee they claim is “pricing children out of their rights.”
The High Court ruled last year that the huge fee was unlawful, finding a “mass of evidence” showing that the sum prevented many children from registering for British citizenship, leaving them feeling “alienated,” “excluded” and “not fully assimilated into the culture and social fabric of the UK.”
But the Home Office appealed against the decision, which was heard today in the Court of Appeal.
The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC), which brought the case, along with two children affected by the fee, estimates that there are about 120,000 children who are eligible to become citizens.
The group says that many struggle to get citizenship as a result of the fee, which has huge knock-on effects for them in the future: they may not be permitted to work, rent, access healthcare, social support or home fees and student loans for higher education. They may also be at risk of detention, removal or exclusion from this country.
PRCBC’s legal challenge last year centred on the profit element of the fee: the administration costs only amounting to £372, the rest is pocketed by the Home Office, the group says.
Amnesty International, which has supported PRCBC in its campaign, said the legal challenge was a “vital opportunity to ensure the original intention of Parliament is realised: that all children growing up in this country should have the same security and sense of belonging as their peers.”
The claimants are hoping to get a more substantial verdict on the lawfulness of the fees that would prevent the Home Office being able to maintain the current sum.
Amnesty UK refugee & migrant rights director Steve Valdez-Symonds said: “Currently, the Home Office is depriving many British children of their British citizenship by a huge and prohibitive fee.
“That must end. Children must no longer be made to feel alienated, isolated and second best by this exclusion from citizenship which is theirs by right.”
The two-day hearing ends on Wednesday.
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