Home Office misunderstood British citizenship laws over several decades – Court of Appeal agrees with High Court ruling

Wednesday 20 March 2024

The full counsel team included Jessica Simor KC, Adrian Berry of the Garden Court Public Law & Immigration Teams,
and Admas Habteslasie, instructed by Solange Valdez-Symonds of Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC).

The content below has been reproduced from a PRCBC press release.

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Court of Appeal decision handed down on 12 March 2024 agrees with High Court judgment in January 2023.

Following the High Court judgment, Parliament passed the British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 2023 via an accelerated procedure, to guarantee the British citizenship of thousands of people affected by the Home Office ‘misunderstanding’. People born in the UK on or after 2 October 2000 continue to be treated differently and less favourably to those born before that date.

Mr Roehrig’s circumstances

Mr Roehrig was born shortly after 2 October 2000 in the UK to a French mother who had moved to live and work under European Union free movement law. She was exercising European Union free movement rights as a worker at the time of his birth. Both he and his mother have lived in the UK ever since. Mr Roehrig argued that, under British citizenship law, he was automatically made a British citizen at this birth. He was in no different position merely by being born after the domestic regulations changed on 2 October 2000 rather than before that date; and his birth in the UK shortly after that date to a mother exercising EU free movement rights must have had the same effect as it would if it had taken place a few weeks earlier.

The Court of Appeal’s judgment

The Court of Appeal – as did the High Court – accepts the starting point of Mr Roehrig’s argument but not its conclusion. The court generally concludes that the position was the same before and from 2 October 2000. However, rather than this meaning that Mr Roehrig was born a British citizen, along with people born in similar circumstances before that date, the law as it was at the time meant that thousands of people – long treated as British citizens at their birth before 2 October 2000 – were no more entitled to British citizenship than was Mr Roehrig at his slightly later birth.

By hurriedly passing the British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 1981 with retrospective effect, Parliament has avoided the impact of this for people born before 2 October 2000. Such people are now British citizens and, in law, treated as always having been British citizens. However, Mr Roehrig – who has lived in the UK ever since his birth shortly after 2 October 2000 – remains, in the Court of Appeal’s judgment, without British citizenship. 

Solange Valdez-Symonds, solicitor for Mr Roehrig and CEO of the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC), said:

“The Court of Appeal’s judgment is a further body blow for Mr Roehrig who was born and has lived in this country his entire life – as connected to this country as any of his peers. “He is a victim of a confused mess created and maintained over several decades concerning rights to British citizenship.

“It is neither his fault that the Home Office has long failed to understand and correctly apply British citizenship law nor that the security provided by EU free movement law to his mother obscured the ultimate importance of her taking action – either before or after his birth – that would have secured his citizenship if only she could have understood that. “Once again, terrible injustice has been done and continues to be done to people by failures to understand and apply British nationality laws fully and equally.”

A short practitioner’s note on the judgment is available HERE.

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