Press attitudes and bureaucratic nightmares

Picture of Claire Rayner with her newborn daughter, who did not receive a birth certificateTeenager who doesn’t exist: Birth certificate blunder in Spain means British girl can’t get passport or even a bus pass | Mail Online

The above report is about a young girl who was born in Spain to two British parents but never issued with a birth certificate (because the parents mistook some other document they were given at the hospital for the certificate) and now cannot prove her identity, and thus get a passport or a discounted bus pass (or, when she is old enough, a driving licence). Readers might notice that the comments to the article contain the usual flood of ill-informed, bigoted nonsense, with a few helpful suggestions, such as that people have proved their family lineage in the absence of a birth certificate with sworn affidavits that someone is their relative, as people born in many parts of the world do not have birth certificates.

The family complain that they cannot go on holidays with their daughter because they are unable to get her a passport. The Daily Mail echo this complaint. Surely they know that if the UK belonged to the Schengen accord, we would be able to travel freely in Europe without a passport, as people living on the mainland already do: they just drive straight across, even at former “Iron Curtain” borders such as between Austria and the Czech republic and Hungary. The Government has not signed up to this, mainly because it fears a backlash from papers like the Daily Mail which would result if it were even suggested. Of course, people would be glad of being in the Schengen area when they realise they could travel to France without a passport, requiring only photo ID and then only when boarding a plane.

However, there is not much use arguing about who is to blame for the mix-up; she was born seven weeks prematurely, so the mother might well have been more concerned about her daughter’s health than filling in forms. It should not, in this day and age, take a birth certificate to prove that someone is a child of a British citizen, anyway — all that would require is a DNA test of the girl and one of the parents. It’s easy to prove; the authorities should get on and let it happen so that this young woman can have a normal life.

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