Premier welcomes step to address 'longstanding inequity’
David Burt has joined campaigners in welcoming a plan to correct a legal anomaly which has prevented hundreds of people from obtaining British citizenship, even though they were born to a parent from a British Overseas Territory.
The change in the law, announced by British Home Secretary Priti Patel in a policy statement on immigration to the UK Parliament last month, will affect children born outside of Britain and its territories to parents who were British Overseas Territories Citizens.
Specifically, it will enable those born before January 1, 1983, to mothers and those born before July 1, 2006 to unmarried fathers to acquire British Overseas Territory and British citizenship – where presently they are unable to do so.
Mr Burt, the Premier, described consultation on the plan, which runs until May 6, as a “welcomed development”.
He said: “The introduction of new registration provisions for people born before 1 January, 1983 to British Overseas Territories Citizen mothers, and before July 1, 2006 to unmarried fathers, so they can acquire citizenship, is an important step in addressing longstanding inequity.”
Ms Patel’s policy statement says: “Until January 1, 1983, women could not pass on British nationality to a child born outside the UK and its then territories.
“Similarly, until July 1, 2006, children born to British unmarried fathers could not acquire British nationality through their father.
“While new registration provisions were introduced to rectify these issues for British citizens, they were not applied to children of British Overseas Territories Citizens.
“This is an injustice so we will now right this wrong and create new registration routes for the affected children of British Overseas Territory Citizens to acquire both British Overseas Territory and British Citizenship.”
The British and British Overseas Territories Citizenship Campaign, which has pressed for changes to the British Nationality Act 1981 to address the anomalies, said the British Government had “done the right and proper thing [by] stating it intends to legislate to remove this hurtful and demeaning discrimination”.
Campaign coordinator Dave Varney told The Royal Gazette: “The Home Secretary indicated that this is going to benefit hundreds rather than thousands of people.
“It’s such a narrow subject matter. The ramifications are on children deemed illegitimate under British nationality law.”
Mr Varney said the change would not automatically enable people to gain “belonger” status in a territory.
"That authority remains firmly under the control of each territory’s local government; the UK Government has no say on granting such a right,“ he said.
“Based on some of the territory’s constitutions, a child of descent must first be recognised as a BOTC, then under the normal process an application can be made to belong, like is done for … children born in wedlock.
“It is going [to] place all children of descent on a fair footing, which most decent humans want for their children.”
Mr Varney added: “At the end of the day it is about official recognition and validation, treating all children of descent with dignity by their parents’ homelands.”
He praised Kimberley Durrant, the Government of Bermuda’s representative in London and the chairwoman of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association, for her assistance with the campaign.
Ms Durrant said: “The United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association is working in close consultation with officials in both the Foreign Office and Home Office and have done so for several years.
“We have been supported by MPs cross-party in the House of Commons and dedicated peers in the House of Lords.
“We have specifically worked alongside the Government of Montserrat who, together with members of the Montserrat diaspora in the UK, have campaigned on behalf of all British Overseas Territories’ fathers and mothers who were unable to pass on nationality to their children.
“These individuals have tirelessly advocated against the long standing injustice in the legislation.”
The BOTC Campaign was launched by actor Trent Lamont Miller after he discovered he could not claim British and British Overseas Territories Citizenship, by descent, through his father, who was born in Montserrat.
The campaign, on its website, urges people in all of the territories and elsewhere to comment on the proposal if they "support this change allowing British Overseas Territories children of descent to have the same nationality and citizenship rights as mainland UK children and unmarried parents“.
The consultation is here.
* Will this change in British law impact you or your loved ones? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.