Last month the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, made a major announcement. A consultation was to take place on proposed changes to immigration law that would give British citizenship to the children of British Overseas Territories citizens born out of wedlock. There is currently an anomaly in the British Nationality Act that denies British citizenship to those born of unmarried Fathers (before 1 July 2006) and Mothers (before 1 January 1983).
This has been a huge issue and one which successive Governments have procrastinated on. Excuses have included a lack of parliamentary time and the need to consult the OTs. It has been raised in parliament many times: In Committees, and on the floor of the House. Last year an early day motion was signed by a group of MPs from across the political spectrum. There has also been considerable support for the cause from groups outside parliament, including the UK Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA).
“This is an injustice,” said Bermuda Premier David Burt earlier this year, but “we will right this wrong.” I wrote about the issue myself a few months ago when the Government acted with amazing speed to offer a route to British citizenship to Hong Kongers after the introduction of the Hong Kong National Security Act. https://livinginmontserrat.wordpress.com/2020/10/27/british-citizenship-hong-kongers-and-the-children-of-unmarried-british-fathers/ . I also organised some lobbying of MPs in my role at Friends of the British Overseas Territories.
The issue was raised by Janice Panton at the Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry in 2018. Written evidence from Trent Miller, who founded the British Overseas Territories Citizenship Campaign, was also submitted. Trent has been the driving force behind getting this issue addressed for many years. His father, who was born in Montserrat to Montserratian parents, left the island for work purposes in the 1960s, and ended up in the USA, where Trent was born to an American mother.
He now works as an actor, and his IMDB profile shows that he has been in a few things that might be familiar to you. He identifies as Montserratian and has been engaged in a prolonged and now almost successful camping to get his citizenship. Hopefully, when he arrives in Montserrat with his new passport in hand, he will be greeted at the airport by the Premier. He deserves no less. He is already a supporter of several civil society organisations on the island.
The story has been covered by the media outside Montserrat but hasn’t received the attention it deserves here. The Bermuda Royal Gazette in particular praised the work of Kimberley Durrant, the Government of Bermuda’s representative in London and chairwoman of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association. She ensured that the UKOTA continued to prioritise the issue, and worked with members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and the Home Office and FCDO.
In the Gazette, Durrant acknowledged the contribution of Panton and Miller and others in the diaspora. “We have specifically worked alongside the Government of Montserrat who, together with members of the Montserrat diaspora, have campaigned on behalf of all British Overseas Territories’ fathers and mothers who were unable to pass on nationality to their children.”
But we aren’t quite over the line. The consultation on the UK Government’s “New Plan for Immigration” closes on the 6th May. The section of overseas territories citizenship is Section 3. We don’t know how popular the plan will be or who will respond. It looks like only around 10,000 responders so far, so if you could find the time to respond yourself, you can make your own contribution to supporting this monumental change. Here is the link. Public participation platform of The New Plan for Immigration | CitizenLab