A little over 3 years ago, we met ‘Sade’ and her mother, ‘Maria’, about whom we’ve told you before.
When we met, Sade, who was born in the UK, was a little over 8, and had spent the entirety of her life to date in this country, which is her home. Maria had attempted to regularise her immigration status and seek employment, her daughter having been in the UK for over 7 years.
As she has been granted no legal employment rights and had no recourse to public funds , Maria had attempted to submit the application without paying the Home Office’s sizeable application fee, on the basis that she could not reasonably be expected to find the money to pay it from her £70-odd weekly section 17 Children Act support.
The Home Office, however, had declined to accept her evidence of destitution, and so refused to enter her application for leave, writing instead to tell her that she and Sade were at risk of removal from the UK.
So Sade sat in our office, sobbing and broken- in much the same way as innumerable women and men have done before and, indeed, since. I sat with her, talking her through the legal challenges I could help her to make to the Home Office’s unreasonable refusal of her fee waiver application. To keep Sade amused, I handed her some pens and paper, and invited her to draw a picture- to be rewarded with the handsome and, indeed, flattering study of myself which illustrates this piece, and which I have to this day.
But it was notable that, as Sade sat and entertained herself, she regularly turned towards her mother, checking to see that she was OK and, it appeared, demonstrating a level of worry, care and concern far beyond that which an 8 year old child should be expected to have for a parent.
Anyway. We successfully submitted the fee waiver application. The Home Office then refused to grant the family leave to remain anyway, suggesting that they could ‘reasonably’ be expected to return to Maria’s country of origin- where Sade had never so much as set foot, and knew no one.
Undeterred, Maria submitted yet another application: this too was refused, just a matter of weeks before Sade’s 10th birthday, when she would become eligible for British citizenship, with the Home Office taking the position that as she was not yet British, any future citizenship rights could be disregarded.
Ever determined to secure the best outcome for her daughter, Maria then scraped together the £1013 required to register her daughter as a British citizen.She has got herself into serious debt raising these funds, and is likely to be repaying this debt for years to come. We helped her to submit the citizenship application back in March of this year.
And this week, finally, Maria’s determination has been rewarded, The Home Office has written to confirm that Sade has been registered as a British citizen- just 3 weeks before she is due to start secondary school, having spent her life to date, including the entirety of her primary school education, in extreme poverty.
Sade is a delightful child, a force of nature. She is bright, brave, funny, clever and kind. I have no doubt at all that she will achieve great things in her life, and am looking forward to hearing about her future adventures.
But how much more of her formidable potential might she so far have been helped to meet had she not spent her childhood so far in abject misery, enduring month after month in grim B&Bs, with her mother living with the perpetual dread of the family’s removal to an unknown and uncertain future?
Forcing Maria into debt to secure Sade’s future in the UK has profited the Home Office to the tune of £640.
Can anyone seriously tell us it was worth it?