Government is consulting with lawyers to see if their citizenship can be revoked
It was recently revealed UK citizenship has been given to the children of eastern Europeans living in Britain without the correct paperwork. Since the issue was discovered around 100 passports have been revoked, and the investigation is ongoing to reveal the extent of the problem.
What we do know is the problem has affected families from Poland and the Czech Republic. Both of these countries joined the European Union in 2004, and these children were eligible for British citizenship and a British passport from 2009 onwards, if their parents could prove they had been working legally in the UK for five consecutive years.
It has now come to light that, in some cases, officials failed to request documentation to prove this. The mistake was discovered when the parents applied to renew their children’s passports, which are only valid for five years. Theresa May, who assumed the position of Home Secretary in 2010, only discovered the mistakes when The Guardian raised the issue with the Home Office. It is also thought that civil servants knew about the failings for much longer as there was an increase in passport renewal requests in November 2015, which would have highlighted the initial errors.
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The children were granted citizenship and British passports through a rule that states any child is eligible for citizenship if one or both parent claims British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain.
In 2004, when Poland and the Czech Republic joined the EU, citizens from these countries were allowed to live and work in the UK freely, provided they registered with the Worker Registration Scheme, so the government could keep track of how many people were moving to the UK. After five years of continuous settlement in the UK, their children should be eligible for British citizenship and a British passport provided the parent can provide their Worker Registration Scheme documents in order to prove they have been in the UK for five years.
Although the rest of their documentation was in place, some weren’t asked to provide their Worker Registration Scheme documents when they initially applied for a passport. It was only when renewing the passport five years later that they were asked to provide the documentation. Around 100 passports were initially revoked when parents couldn’t provide the necessary documentation. This marks a first in UK legal history, as civil servants are now consulting with lawyers to see if their British citizenship can be revoked.
Barbara Drozdowicz, director of the Eastern European Advice Centre, has described it as a “real shock” and “betrayal” of the eastern European community.
It will impact on the sense of belonging of hundreds of thousands of people living in the UK in the eastern European community.
Conversely, Labour MP Frank Field — who is known for his strong views on controlling immigration — criticised the Home Office for handing out British passports “like confetti”. He said:
The government therefore needs to inform voters what lessons it has learned from this error, and how will they be applied to the many thousands of children about to arrive in our country from Europe — both as citizens and as refugees.
Roman Winter is an aspiring freelance writer who is interested in law and politics.