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Tuesday, 27 November 2018

High Court challenge to £1000 fee to register a child as British citizen given go-ahead

Written by Sam Tobin

A High Court challenge to the "huge" fee required to register a child as a British citizen has been given the go-ahead.

The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) argues that the £1,012 registration fee, just £372 of which represents the Home Office's administrative costs, is unlawfully high.

The charity claims that many children who are entitled to British citizenship, having been born in the UK and lived here for their first 10 years, are prevented from applying because of the cost.

At a hearing in London on Tuesday, Mrs Justice Yip said the PRCBC had an arguable case which will be aired at a full hearing.

Amanda Weston QC said the PRCBC was challenging only the amount of the fee, which Home Secretary Sajid Javid described in May as "a huge amount of money to ask children to pay for citizenship".

She submitted that the Home Office had been "bound to consider the impact of the imposition of higher, profit-making fees... on children's ability to register", particularly in light of the "ongoing impact on their futures, access to education, travel, security, sense of identity and private lives".

But, Ms Weston said, the Government had failed to have regard to "the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children" when it set the £1,012 figure.

She added that the £640 "profit" made by the Home Office on each application equated to asking children to "subsidise or fund the cost of maintaining a border, a border many such children had never crossed".

William Hansen, for the Home Office, said the PRCBC's claim was a "re-run of arguments that failed" in a previous court challenge to the legality of charging for citizenship.

Mr Hansen also questioned whether the PRCBC should be allowed to bring the case, saying: "If there is to be a substantive hearing, the issues are best explored with a real claimant who has been unable to afford to pay the fee and suffered as a result."

Granting permission for a full hearing, Mrs Justice Yip noted that the current registration fee was "significantly in excess of the administrative cost of dealing with an application".

The judge concluded that "with some hesitation and reluctance, I am going to grant permission".

Speaking after the hearing, PRCBC director Solange Valdez-Symonds said the granting of permission was "quite an emotional moment", adding: "It is early days, but it is an achievement."

Steve Valdez-Symonds, from Amnesty International, which is supporting the PRCBC's case, said: "This is a tremendous step forward in a long-standing dispute to establish children's rights.

"The rights to citizenship that thousands of these children have are being every day denied by our government, and by governments before, by these outrageous fees.

"Every child who grows up British is entitled to have that recognised."

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