17th September 2019, Bournemouth
Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake has backed a campaign calling for the reform of the amount government charges children to apply for citizenship.The Lib Dem spokesperson said that lowering the fees which the UK Government charges for children to apply for their citizenship has the “unanimous” support of his party.Mr Brake was speaking at an event at the Liberal Democrats party conference held by the International Observatory of Human Rights.The London-based NGO are calling on the government to scrap the punitive fees which sees children paying 1,012 to apply for citizen-status – the highest fees of any major economy in Europe.A petition to waive the fees now has more than 5,000 signatures, half way to the threshold required for an official government response.Under-18s are also forced to pay 19.20 to provide biometric information and 80 to attend a citizenship ceremony if a child turns 18 during the application process.
If the application is refused, applicants are not refunded. If children want to re-apply for citizenship, they must pay the fee again.
But the cost of processing the application is just 372, meaning the Home Office makes 640 profit from each child that applies.
Tom Brake MP said: “This is an issue the party is unanimously in support of and now we need to see the cross party infrastructure to push this through”Another obstacle placed in the way of would-be citizens is the criteria for rejection. Children are subject to ambiguous “good character” criteria which allows civil servants to dismiss an application based on .The cost of the application for children has increased 51% in the last five years – during which time Theresa May’s Home Office instigated a “hostile environment” policy to drive immigration numbers down.That policy has affected the lives of thousands of children, some of whom were born here and some of those who came to the UK in search of a brighter future, but are left in limbo because their families struggle to pay the fees attached to their citizenship application.Erlisa Dajci, 22-year-old refugee came to the UK as a child when her family fled the conflict in Kosovo.As a schoolgirl she faced the uncertainty of not knowing if she would be deported because her family could not afford to pay for the fees which would give her access to a passport and security.
Speaking at the IOHR event yesterday (Tues), she said: “I do feel like not having a passport robbed me of my childhood.”It’s easy to think kids just go to school and don’t notice what’s going on, but knowing that you’re different from everyone else has had effects that still linger to today. “I don’t want any child to go through that”IOHR director Valerie Peay, said: “Removing the 1,012 fee charged for a child’s future is the first step to take through the parliamentary system.”Working together, we also need to address the barriers that intimidate those with the right to apply. “No child should have the spectre of an ambiguous “good behaviour” stipulation hanging over them over late homework or trying to help parents translate their complications of an application only available in English.”It’s time we thought differently about the vulnerable in our society and helped them to engage without anxiety and crippling fees.”
On the 1st of July, IOHR launched a petition calling on the UK government to waive the application fee for children’s citizenship applications.