Shane Ridge case: Shurely shome mishtake

Picture of Shane Ridge, a young white man with short blond hair and a slight beard wearing a dark blue boiler suit standing in a room with white painted breeze-block walls with a whiteboard behind him, holding a letter in his hands headed 'Immigration Enforcement'Update: The Home Office has apologised after it established that Shane Ridge was indeed automatically a British citizen.

I’ve filed this under “Immigration” even though the ‘immigrant’ in question, Shane Ridge from Colne, Lancashire, was born in the UK and both his parents are British nationals, but he has been told to prepare for deportation to Australia, where his mother was born during a family holiday although she has always lived in the UK. The ‘stumbling block’ is that his mother was not married to his British father at the time of his birth, and it is only since 2006 that a British father can transmit British nationality to his children if he is not married to their mother at the time of their birth (it has only been since 1983 that a British mother can pass her nationality onto a child born overseas). Still, I wonder why, as an illegitimate son of a British mother, he is not automatically a British national even if he may also be an Australian national. It sounds like a bureaucratic mix-up to me; according to the government’s own website:

You’re automatically a British citizen if you were born in the UK after 1 January 1983 and 1 of your parents was a British citizen or settled here at that time. You don’t need to register.

Shane Ridge is 21, so must have been born in 1996 or 1997. Also according to their website, one can register as a British citizen if born before 2006 out of wedlock to a British father and “would have become a British citizen automatically if your parents had been married”. I fail to see why this route is not open to Shane Ridge if he is not automatically British, as he appears to be.

There has been a trickle of these stories over the years of children of British nationals finding out that they do not in fact have citizenship because of some quirk of the circumstances of their birth: the elderly lady who discovered that she was in fact American because she was born there even though her mother had brought her back here as a young child; the man born to British parents in British India but lost his right to British nationality when he took Australian nationality (something that would not have happened to someone born here to the same parents), the woman born in the UK to Barbadian parents whose older brothers and sisters are all British but she is not because she was born after 1983, and the woman told she is legally a man, because of a mistake on her birth certificate, despite having given birth to three children. Usually these things are discovered when the affected person applies for a passport and is instead told they are an illegal immigrant and expected to leave the country when they have no connections to their supposed home country.

The nationality rules have changed over the years but have never been back-dated to extend the right of British nationality to those born before the law changed. If there was the political will, they could be simplified so that anyone born to any British national (or with two British grandparents) automatically had the right to claim British citizenship, as well as anyone born in the UK who has close relatives (such as siblings or grandparents) who are British nationals. This would eliminate situations where someone whose entire family is British is excluded because of some insignificant detail in their history or their parents’. All children of British nationals should have the right to British citizenship and at the very least the right to live and work in the UK without let or hindrance. It’s absurd that these outmoded laws still remain in effect in a supposedly equal, modern and multicultural state whose citizens have connections and kinship ties in all corners of the world.

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