Amnesty UK Children's Human Rights Network has been working with The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) for over 4 years, campaigning for the citizenship rights of young people in the UK.
There are thousands of children in the UK who have the right to register British citizenship. However, they face a number of challenges.
The first is that many do not know they will need to register their citizenship. Many were raised in the UK, attended school here - many were even born here. But their rights are not automatically granted.
The second problem is that the UK government charges a huge, profit-making fee to every child registering as a British Citizen. The fee is currently £1,012, although the cost of processing an application if just £372. The Home Office makes around £646 in profit from every application, according to their own figures.
There's no fee waiver for children in poverty, or for children in care. There's no reduction if a family has multiple children.
For an awful lot of children and families in the UK, £1,012 is simply prohibitively expensive - and so the children cannot register at all.
Nationality is recognised as an important element of a person’s identity. Without being able to access their right to British citizenship, children may miss out on opportunities such as higher education and travel, and may even face difficulties in accessing healthcare or employment. They are also put at risk because without this citizenship they remain subject to immigration rules and powers.
Quite simply - the UK Government is pricing young people out of their rights. This cannot continue. Rights should not be and must not become something only the wealthy can access.
The Children's Network and PRCBC have worked together closely to campaign for change.
We are calling on the Home Secretary to:
- Remove the profit-making element of the registration fee
- Introduce a fee waiver for cases where a child’s parent or other carer would be unable to afford the fee to register
- Charge no fee for registration in cases of children assisted by a local authority under the Children Act 1989
Between us, we have given hundreds of talks at groups, schools, children's festivals and conferences, raising awareness of the problem and raising almost 50,000 petition signatures. In 2019 we held a demonstration outside of the Home Office and delivered petition signatures.
We have involved teaching Trade Unions, to make sure as many teachers as possible are aware of the situation some of their children may be facing - with articles in their newsletters, events at the Trades Union Congress, and more.
PRCBC have challenged the law through the courts - winning a judgment in the High Court in 2019 that the fee was unlawful because the Home Office had not fulfilled its legal responsibility to consider the best interests of the child. In 2020, the Court of Appeal agreed with this judgment.
In 2021 PRCBC took the case to the Supreme Court, with the further argument that the law does not allow such a high fee. Amnesty UK also intervened in this appeal, making written submissions to the court about the impact on stateless children’s rights. The case was heard on 23 and 24 June 2021 and judgment is awaited.
In support of the legal challenge we have also held demonstrations outside the High Court and the Supreme Court.
The campaign has made spectacular progress over the last few years - with the court case ruling giving real hope that the fee will be dropped. The campaign has also gathered huge, national interest - with press stories in the Financial Times, Independent, Guardian and more.