Abolish naturalisation fees for all - Derry Colr.
SDLP councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr has called for naturalisation fees to be scrapped for people born in commonwealth countries.
She made the call in a letter to the NI Affairs Committee which has recommended the abolition of UK citizenship fees for Irish nationals.
Former Derry mayor, Willie Hay, who recently provided evidence to the committee, complained that because he was born in Milford after the Irish Free State’s departure from the British Commonwealth in 1949, he was not automatically entitled to a British Passport.
The NIAC branded the situation ‘indefensibile’. It has noted that naturalisation is a lengthy process that costs £1,330, and that applicants must also take a ‘Life in the UK’ test that costs an additional £50.
Colr. Seenoi-Barr, in her letter to the NIAC, urged the committee to consider widening the waiver to people born in commonwealth countries who live and work here.
“Whilst it would be difficult to argue against the recommendation which will serve to regularise the situation of many who live in the island of Ireland, I fear the move will be seen by many citizens from Commonwealth countries- who have lived in very similar circumstances for decades- profoundly unfair and discriminatory given the complex history that the UK shares with its fellow commonwealth members,” she wrote.
The Kenyan-born councillor referred to the considerable cost she had to incur obtaining a British passport.
“Like many, I have lived in NI for many years, I work and pay my taxes, but I had to pay £72 to take the life in UK test in Belfast whilst I live in Derry, pay £1350 for UK citizenship and £80 for a British passport. In your comments, you recognized the importance of ‘Respect for, and acceptance of, people’s identities in NI’,” she stated.
The Foyleside councillor said these fees should be waived for all citizens regardless of their country-of-origin.
“The committee’s proposal fails to consider the shared, complex history and personal ties between UK and the Commonwealth countries. I would therefore urge you to amend your proposal to take greater consideration of the merit of granting similar concessions to the tens of thousands minority ethnic people who live, work and pay their taxes in this country.”