Currently, only British mothers and married British fathers are able to pass on their citizenship, by descent, to their children. The one and only group left out of their birthright are children born before 1 July 2006 to unmarried British fathers.
There is a registration system put in place for fathers to register their minor children for UK citizenship. However, it is being misused by immigration officers. There are numerous news stories about children shut out of British citizenship because an immigration officer refused to register an illegitimate child's birth. Once that child reaches the age of 18, they are exempt from the opportunity to acquire British citizenship.
No other group of children have a cut-off date attached to their births for nationality purposes. Only illegitimate children have such unfair rules applied to them by the British government. Every other child born to at least one British parent can apply for citizenship at any time in their life.
Both the Nationality, Immigration, & Asylum Act and the Borders, Citizenship, & Immigration Bill sought to remove this inequality completely. However, each time it was removed, continuing to shut out children born to unmarried British fathers, while giving British mothers the right to pass on their nationality to their children, regardless of birth status. It was last year, during the Borders Bill, when the then Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, stated that giving illegitimate children any rights would be a "step into the unknown". Another MP told a "who's your daddy" joke.
This behavior towards illegitimate children is unacceptable and goes against both the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. The British government must find a way to offer some path to citizenship for the very last group it has admitted to discriminating against — illegitimate children born before 1 July 2006 to British fathers.
This is clearly a human rights issue. Only one group of children are being singled out of their nationality rights. Remove ALL cut-off dates so that ALL children born to at least one British parent can register their births and acquire British passports, not just specific groups.
It is illegal under the Human Rights Act to discriminate on the basis of age and sex. In this instance there are two victims of inequality – children born out of wedlock before 1 July 2006 and unmarried British fathers.
This inequality tears families apart. In some households, some children have British citizenship and some do not. If a child were born today to an unmarried British father, they would have the right to British citizenship, but a sibling in the same household who was born before 1 July 2006 would not. Many chlidren born before 2006 have fathers who went on to marry and have chldren with other women, conferring British citizenship on one set of children, whilst leaving their siblings who were born out of wedlock to a different mother, shut out.
It’s also important because for so long, unmarried fathers have faced uninformed or unscrupulous immigration officers who wrongfully denied them the chance to register their child’s birth.
Why isn’t a legitimate claim to British citizenship by descent, automatic for all children of a British parent? Why is there such an unjust tier system in British nationality law?
It is time to put an end to this blatant and unjustified discrimination!