Children as young as 10 refused British citizenship on ‘good character’

Home Office (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images).
Home Office (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images).

CHILDREN who have spent all their lives in the UK have been denied British citizenship because of judgement on their ‘good character’.

Parliament’s Human Rights Committee said that children as young as 10 were refused British citizenship on “good character” grounds between July 2017 and August 2018. In some cases, the individuals had received a police caution but had never been convicted of a crime.

The committee has accused the Home Office of being “unduly heavy-handed” in applying the test, which was originally intended to apply only to foreign nationals coming from outside the UK.

The committee’s report said that it was “inappropriate” to apply the good character requirement to 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.”

The committee has urged the Home Office to review its proposed changes to the law and act “without delay” to ensure a fair, non-discriminatory approach to UK nationality law.

“The application of good character requirements to children raises concerns 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,” the report noted.

Describing the four-figure fees children have to pay to apply for citizenship as “too expensive”, the report said that this could prevent those from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying.

“This means the government is asking children for fees that are more than three times the cost recovery for processing such an application,” the committee said.

A Home Office spokesman said that the best interests of the child will always be at the heart of decision making.

“We updated the good character guidance in January this year and have provided training and additional support for caseworkers to make sure the guidance is embedded and understood,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

“As the report recognises, we are making changes to the legislation to ensure a consistent approach to the application of good character requirement.”