The cost of citizenship registration for children is placing a ‘huge burden’ on the Somali community
- Home Office charges more than £1,000 to register some children born in UK as British
- Cost is out of reach for many in the Somali community in Manchester
- Amnesty International UK labels Home Office conduct a 'disgrace'
The Somali community in Manchester is disproportionately affected by a £1,023 fee the Home Office charges to register some children born in the UK as British.
Last week in the Court of Appeal the legality of the fee, which generates a £600 profit on each application, was brought into question by the Protection for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC).
The Somali Adult Social Care Agency (SASCA), a Somali community centre based in Moss Side, says fees charged by the Home Office are unmanageable for local Somalis, many of whom live on low incomes and have large families.
Ahmed Mohamed, a SASCA board member, said: “It’s unfair to get people on low incomes to pay that kind of money, it takes years for families to collect.”
Omar, 31, had to pay almost £3,000 to register his three children as British, despite two having been born in Manchester.
Until he was able to do so, he was unable to travel outside the country.
He said: “Not being able to travel made things really difficult.”
As well as restrictions to travel those unable to afford the fees struggle to register for GPs, enrol in schools and are left feeling alienated, according to the Protection for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC).
Steven Valdez-Symonds, program director at Amnesty International UK who works closely with the PRCBC, said: “Why on earth should someone entitled to British citizenship have to be dependent on the permission of the Home Office to do these thoroughly basic and necessary things in their home country?
“The response by the Home Office has been a disgrace.”
Some even face the potential of being deported in the future.
Paul Morris, a Manchester-based immigration lawyer, knows of a Somali man who was granted indefinite leave to remain as a child but did not register as British.
He was later convicted for taking driving tests on others’ behalf and deported and would not have been deported had he paid the fee as a child.
Mukhtar Mohamed, 22, worried about the prospect of starting a family.
He said: “It’s a lot of money and it’s unfortunate. It would be difficult to pay.”
The PRBC argue that the failure of the Home Office to consider the best interests of children is unlawful. They have also appealed a previous ruling that the Home Office is acting lawfully by charging above operational costs and making profit on citizenship registration for children.
A verdict is not expected to be announced for some weeks. However, if a decision cannot be made the case will be referred to the Supreme Court.