Theresa May has been warned she risks creating a “new Windrush generation” by charging undocumented children living in the UK lawfully thousands of pounds.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has written to the Prime Minister urging her to waive fees of up to £10,000 which risk denying more than 100,000 people their right to stay in the UK and become British citizens.
Campaigners say the fees put tens of thousands of people, born in the UK or brought here as children, at risk of deportation because they can’t afford the paperwork. Through the charity Just for Kids Law, Blackford has called on the Government to extend its commitment to Windrush migrants and scrap the fees.
“This government is guilty of creating a generation of undocumented citizens, without the rights that many of us take for granted,” said Blackford, who has requested a meeting with the Prime Minister to press the case.
“We are talking about young people who live here, who have to wait ten years and pay up to £10,000 to achieve permanent right to remain.
“Most will not have access to legal advice for the complicated paperwork, and the fees are extortionate.
“Many of these children will not be aware of the need to register until they are required to prove their citizenship but can’t. They then find themselves excluded from being able to work, study, rent private accommodation and apply for social security.”
When Blackford raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions before the Westminster recess, May replied: “[He] cites a figure that I certainly do not recognise as the cost that he suggests applies for an application for citizenship here in the UK.”
However, campaigners claim the total cost of the bureaucratic process over a decade can exceed £10,000.
Blackford believes citizens of countries in the Commonwealth and beyond could be targeted by the Home Office.
The SNP MP added: “With the Government’s plans to introduce changes to fees and procedures in response to the Windrush cases, there is now an opportunity to also review and change these charges for children’s citizenship and residential applications at the same time.”