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Protecting Child Citizenship Rights – Briefing on Illegal Migration Bill

Clauses 30-36, Illegal Migration Bill
“Persons prevented from obtaining British citizenship”

A KIND UK briefing for MPs

Under these clauses, a child born in the UK on or after 7 March 2023 who has lived in the UK their entire life would generally be denied citizenship rights and even face removal if an unconnected parent (e.g. a father they have never met) later arrives via an irregular route.

“Becoming a British citizen is a significant life event… British citizenship gives you the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of your local community.”
Home Office Citizenship Guidance[1]

These clauses have wide-ranging detrimental effects on the citizenship rights of children and adults. Many children would lose vital citizenship rights on the basis of circumstances occurring before their birth and far beyond their control. Coram Children’s Legal Centre has called this punishing of future generations “an unheard of change to the way our nationality law works.”[2]

KIND UK (Kids in Need of Defense UK) assists children in the UK with immigration and citizenship matters on a pro bono basis. We partner with 22 corporate law firms to deliver free legal advice and representation.

Many of KIND UK’s clients are children whom the Bill would ban for life from accessing routes to British citizenship currently open to them under the British Nationality Act 1981 (e.g for children born and resident in the UK for the first ten years of their life, children whose parents have settled in the UK, and other children with long-term connections to the UK).

Under Clauses 30-36 of the Illegal Migration Bill, children entering/arriving in the UK on or after 7 March 2023 and falling foul of Clause 2 of the Bill would be barred from ever acquiring British citizenship; and children born in the UK on or after 7 March 2023 would be barred from ever acquiring British citizenship if a parent has ever fallen foul of Clause 2, i.e:

  • arrives in the UK irregularly on or after 7 March 2023; and
  • were not coming directly from a country where their life or freedom was threatened for certain specified reasons; and
  • require leave to enter or remain in the UK but do not have it.

Those affected would include children born in the UK, child trafficking victims, the children of trafficking victims, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, children of refugees, and others. Even a child growing up in the UK care system would be punished due to the actions of a parent they may never have met.

We join the Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza in emphasising that the Bill must not undermine children’s rights as set out in the Children Act 1989 (England) and in her concern that there has been no published Child Rights Impact Assessment.[3]

These clauses are incompatible with the Children Act 1989 (England), the Borders, Citizenship, and Immigration Act 2009, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other relevant law.

They are incompatible principles seen across UK law and existing Home Office guidance, that the best interests and welfare of the child must be a primary consideration in decisions affecting them,[4] and that we should not punish a child for the actions of a parent.[5]

Clauses 30-36 should be removed from the Bill.

For our full briefing, please see below or download.