Author: Kate Oglesby
Averil Pooten Watan works with families at St Barnabus Church in Walthamstow, who are faced with a fee of £1,012 if they want to officially make their children British citizens – even though their children were born in the UK.
Ms Pooten Watan said: “Some people have two or three children in their families. When migrants come to this country they have to go through a lengthy and incredibly expensive application process.
But once they become British citizens their children are faced with the barrier of fees to become British citizens.
“Parents have to choose which child to pay for first and that is heart-breaking.”
Even if the child of migrants has lived in the UK all their lives, if they don’t officially become a British citizen and get a British passport it could stop them being granted a student loan and going to university.
One of the women Ms Pooten Watan works with cannot afford to pay citizenship fees for her daughter who is in sixth-form – which means she might not be able to go to university after finishing her A-levels.
Ms Pooten Watan said: “It is a barrier to education, university and opportunities.
“People are in a position where they can’t afford these fees. This is a huge amount of money and people simply don’t have that type of disposable income. They will have to borrow it.
“These are people who are born here and are entitled to be citizens. It’s heart-breaking.”
But this is not just a problem faced by the people Ms Pooten Watan works with.
The 40-year-old, herself mother to Penelope, eight and Eleanor, four, faces having to pay citizenship fees for her eldest daughter, who was born in the US.
The Walthamstow resident currently does not have the money but if her daughter wanted to go to university she would have to find more than £1,000 from somewhere.
Ms Pooten Watan said: “I would have to find the money of get a loan, it’s very frustrating.”
Research by charity Citizens UK earlier this year revealed that the fee of £1,012 for a child to become a British citizen is higher than any other country in the EU.
The charity also revealed the administration fee for processing the citizenship request is around £350 which means the Home Office makes a profit around £620 per child.
Ms Pooten Watan added: “It’s the profits that are disturbing, the Home Office are profiting out of children and vulnerable people in the community.”
Speaking about the citizenship fees faced by the children of migrants, at an event organised by Citizens UK yesterday evening, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan highlighted the importance of migrants in the capital and how much it contributed to the city’s “diversity”.
He added: “I am the child of immigrants so this is personal to me and I hope we are going to see real progress with this.”