Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill

I've been glued to the TV this afternoon and evening watching the MPs as they are discussing amendments to the the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill transfers 4,500 HM Revenue and Customs officers to the UK Borders Agency and introduces a requirement for immigrants to earn British citizenship. It's also making important changes in the law to give British nationality to people born before February 1961 whose mothers were born in the UK. This is the part of the bill that will directly affect me since my mother is British and I was born in the USA before 1961: Children of British mothers - proposed changes to law on citizenship A person who has a British mother currently has a right to register as a British citizen under section 4C of the British Nationality Act 1981 if: he or she was born between 7 February 1961 and 1 January 1983; and he or she would have become a British citizen if women had been able to pass on citizenship in the same way as men at that time. The Government has proposed changes to the law, to allow people born before the 1961 date to British mothers to be registered as British citizens. These proposals are set out in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill which is currently being debated in Parliament. If successful, this Bill will extend the provisions of section 4C of the British Nationality Act 1981 to those born before 1961. This amendment should correct this discriminatory law, however in reality, it doesn't since there is a registration fee of £540 to claim my British citizenship by descent. If my father had been British and/or I was younger, I would automatically have been granted my British citizenship (without paying a fee) so why should I have to now pay a fee to claim what should be my right? The bill is very convoluted with a lot of different issues, not just the particular one that I'm concerned about. The bill is so huge that it should have been divided up into separate bills. And there should be much more time allowed to discuss each point properly, rather than trying to rush through the reading in one day. Phil Woolas (Minister of State for borders and immigration) outlined his proposals for the "transitional arrangements" for those already with Indefinite Leave to Remain (or having applied for ILR). The commencement date for the changeover from the present system to the new "probationary citizenship" pathway is July 2011. He proposed that those on ILR (or having applied for it) at that time will be able to apply for citizenship under the old rules. I noticed that Chris Huhne (Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department) made some very scathing remarks about this bill: "This bill proves that quantity does not equal quality" "...inaccessible and ill thoughtout" "...a pudding without a theme" "...it's piecemeal legislation that results in many anomalies and inconsistencies" "...jigsaw puzzle legislation" "Another trust me, I'm a minister bill" "...a hotchpotch of provisions." And Damian Green (the shadow immigration minister) said there was "Severe disappointment" about this bill. Indeed, I agree with that view! This is the third reading of this bill. I listened intently to the discussion and after all that time and effort, at 10pm the speaker announced that there isn't supposed to be debate after 10pm. So it looks like they will have to continue the debate another day. It was obvious that they were really trying to rush the bill through today. It sure doesn't seem like the right way to go about making changes to laws. Related post from my blog: Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill: Children of British mothers (lots of comments from people in the same situation)

12 comments:

  1. I think it's so strange that a country known for being progressive in so many ways has had such an archaic law on its books for this long. Obviously the fee is an attempt to keep people from applying, knowing full well most won't be able to afford it. It's insulting frankly.It's as if they are saying we want to honor your birthright but only if you are a certain class of people. And how did they come up with such an arbitrary number? Is that what they think a British citizenship is worth? Ridiculous.

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  2. Indeed, it is very strange. The law as it stands is obviously discrimatory and even when this bill attempts to correct the injustice, it still continues to discriminate against children of Briitsh mothers by requiring a fee. And it's not just a nominal fee - it's outrageously high. And yes, it's insulting. If I want to claim my right to British citizenship (and I definitely want to) I have pay the fee. In other words I have to "buy" it. I am incensed!

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  3. The government will never miss an opportunity to make money from the people, Maureen. After all, these politicians have to fund their 'expenses' somehow! (Yes, cynical, I know. I get like that the more I listen to them!)

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  4. I'm sure you're right, Jenny. It is a convenient way to make money. It infuriates me.

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  5. You know my feelings on this so won't be at all surprised that I agree, and sympathise, with all you say here!
    Take care! xx

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  6. Thank you Flighty for your kind words and support. I appreciate it!

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  7. Hi Maureen: The Bill was passed, and is now awaiting agreement by the Lords of the amendments that were made. It was interesting to see Government step down on its very controversial proposals to institute passport controls in the Common Travel Area. It now seems that we will eventually be able to claim our birthright (at great cost of course)! It is scheduled for discussion in the Lords next week.....

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  8. Thank you Greg for clarifying where the Bill stands. I was utterly confused when they suddenly stopped debating the Bill at 10pm. I thought they would debate each and every point and they never discussed the part of the Bill we are keen to hear about!

    As you say, it looks like we will eventually be able to claim our birthright - when this Bill finally goes into effect - but at great cost to each of us.

    I don't suppose there is any chance that the Lords will discuss this part of the bill and question why we have to pay a registration fee.

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  9. I have seen speculation that the provisions relating to the registration of children of British Mothers will only be implemented in 2011. What is your opinion?

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  10. I'm not sure when the Bill goes into effect but I have read an article that gave the date as July 2011. Obviously, I'm not pleased if that is the correct date. It's bad enough that we were discriminated against to begin with but now it looks like we will have to wait even longer.

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  11. The bill gives the appearance of being fair but at the same time amendments have been made to force registration instead of automatic nationality same as the children of British males.

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  12. Exactly! The registration requirement is unfair since children of British males are eligible for automatic nationality. The law needs to be amended (again!) so that nationality via British mothers is the same as via British fathers.

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