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Sanwar Ali: comments and additional reporting
As part of proposed reforms to the UK immigration system, announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel, British nationality laws will be changed to fix so-called ‘Windrush anomalies.’ The changes are set to be welcomed by some of the victims of the ‘outdated’ rules. The Home Office has since admitted that its own errors had left people ruled ineligible for UK citizenship.
There are many, many examples of discrimination and bad behaviour towards migrants and others by the Home Office and successive Governments. There is lots of talk about how bad discrimination is. However, it seems that nothing is done about it unless there is a great deal of bad publicity.
The law changes will be introduced as part of a series of changes to what Patel has described as ‘the UK’s broken immigration system.’
It’s understood that the new rules will give the Home Secretary discretion to overrule UK residency requirements, which have made it impossible for immigration officials to grant British citizenship to people wrongly removed from the UK or prevented from returning home because of the Windrush scandal.
A report published by The Guardian reflects on some of the experiences of victims of the Windrush scandal, including Trevor Donald, a man who had lived in the UK for 43 years. He travelled to Jamaica for his mother’s funeral in 2010, but was wrongly refused re-entry to the UK when he returned.
He said: “I was stuck in Jamaica and left destitute until 9 years later UK immigration officials recognised that they had made a mistake in not allowing me to return home. My citizenship application was refused because of the time I’d spent out of the country. The law says I must be in the UK for five years to apply.”
Commenting on the proposed reforms, Mr Donald said: “It would be good news. They should make amends for their wrongs.”
Mr Donald’s case caused a great deal of public embarrassment for the Home Office, after revealing that three years after the government department had apologised for the Windrush scandal, it was still failing to tackle the issues faced by many of those affected.
Sources inside Whitehall say that Patel has been frustrated by rules that leave UK immigration officials unable to grant citizenship to eligible people.
The changes are expected to add greater flexibility to a system that has been rigid for decades, giving the Home Office the option to waive residency requirements in exceptional circumstances.
A source for the Home Office said: “British nationality law has not changed significantly since 1983. It is outdated, convoluted and littered with anomalies which impact hundreds of people each year. These new reforms will bring about lasting change to our entire immigration system, ensuring it is fair and just.”
The reforms are also set to change a law that currently prevents a child from acquiring their father’s citizenship if their mother was married to someone else. Meanwhile, a new process is set to be introduced that will make it easier for children of British overseas territory citizens to obtain UK citizenship more easily.
While the reforms are set to be widely welcomed, immigrant advocacy groups have urged the government to review the cost of UK citizenship as part of changes to the UK immigration rules.
British citizenship costs are currently among the highest in the world, costing thousands despite very minimal administrative fees for the Home Office, and are a major barrier for many hoping to apply to become a UK citizen.
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