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Wembley Ark Academy students picket Home Office over 'unfair citizenship fees' for children

PUBLISHED: 17:45 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:45 04 October 2018

Ark Academy students outside the Home Office demanding lower fees for British citizenship applications. Picture: Alastair Wanklyn

Ark Academy students outside the Home Office demanding lower fees for British citizenship applications. Picture: Alastair Wanklyn

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Students from Ark Academy in Wembley picketed the Home Office today to demand lower fees on applications for British citizenship.

Ark Academy students outside the Home Office demanding lower fees for British citizenship applications. Picture: Alastair WanklynArk Academy students outside the Home Office demanding lower fees for British citizenship applications. Picture: Alastair Wanklyn

They were among more than 160 from seven different schools who joined the protest in Whitehall.

The £1,012 fee for a child’s application is about £700 more than the actual cost of processing the application. The rest, says the Home Office, subsidises general running costs for the government’s citizenship and border control services – as has been the case since 2004.

Campaigners say this is unfair, and that there is no consideration of an applicant’s income, and no refund if the bid is rejected.

“This requires a sense of urgency,” said Ark Academy student Hadeal Abdelatti, 15. ‎”People cannot claim an identity which is rightfully theirs.”

The Home Office has commissioned a review of fees. Recommendations are expected by December, but any change would require government approval.

Protest coordinator Stuart Tannock, a lecturer at University College London, said: “We’ve come a really long way. A year ago, the Home Office said: ‘We’re not going to meet you. We’re not going to reduce fees.’ Now we’re hopeful there may be a recommendation for lower fees.”

The cost of citizenship is a long-running campaign for grassroots activist groups linked by the Citizens UK coalition. In December 2017 several hundred protesters from schools, mosques and churches delivered sacks of petition letters to the Home Office.

Citizens UK organiser Tahmid Islam said: “This affects 120,000 children across the UK. They have a sense of power about this.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “When setting fee levels, the Home Office considers a number of factors including the cost of processing the application and the likely benefits of a successful application.

“In addition, the wider cost of running the border, immigration and citizenship system are taken into account so that those who directly benefit from it contribute to its funding, minimising the impact on the UK taxpayer.

“As the immigration minister has previously stated, we are reviewing the approach taken in setting fees for visa, immigration and nationality services.”

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