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Eight long years

In 2013 the Home Office raised the fees payable in applying for UK citizenship. Each adult now must pay £1330 and for each child a fee of £1012 is required. The Home Office says that it costs £372 to process each application. The profits are used to fund ‘other areas of its work’, which includes prisons, police, and the justice system.

For eight long years a battle has been fought through the courts to get the Home Office to review these controversially high fee charges. The previous Home Secretary (now seated on the back benches of Parliament) promised to ‘look at the matter’. Falling out with the unelected Dominic Cummings did for his chances of looking at anything.

The Home Office has lost case after case, and appeal after appeal. Still it persisted in charging these fees. Finally, in December 2019, the case reached the Court of Appeal. Once again, the Home Office lost and appealed, yet again. It was their last throw of the dice. On the 18th February 2021, the Court of Appeal rejected their case, ruling that the scale of fees for children is unlawful. The Court found that the scale of fees charged prevents many families from applying for UK citizenship, and leaves them feeling alienated in a country in which they have lived for many years. It prevents families and children from assimilating into the culture and social fabric of the UK. They are left vulnerable to Government attempts to illegally deport them, as happened in the Windrush scandal.

The Court found that Government ministers, including Home Secretaries have failed over a number of years to assess and consider the impact of high fees on children, their families, and the basic rights of children. Families and children are stopped from accessing the benefits and rights of being a British citizen, for which they are qualified in every way, except that they are not rich enough to pay the fees.

The Home Office must now reconsider the fee, and in so doing, ensure children’s best interests are taken fully into account.  However, this is a department which is highly skilled in prevarication and delay. It has been found guilty of unlawful action after eight years of being pursued through the courts.  In UK applications for citizenship which I am assisting at the moment, I still do not know whether the Home Office will continue to demand the now unlawful payment of £1012 for each child.

Do you qualify?

In applying for UK citizenship, each adult must pay for and take a test in English and another on General Knowledge of the UK. The knowledge part includes subjects such as the law, current affairs, and ‘the great and illustrious history of Britain’ (to quote the heading).

The pass mark is set at 80%. From 24 set questions you need to get 20 correct. There is not room to print out a full past paper for you to complete. However, here are 5 questions for you to try your hand at. Get less than 4 correct and I promise not to tell anyone that you failed the UK citizenship test. Maybe you should check your ancestors to see if you qualify for citizenship in some other country. I have some Viking DNA, so I am relying on that.

Question 1   Which TWO of these countries did poet and author Rudyard Kipling spend time living in?

  1. India
  2. Japan
  3. Fiji
  4. United States

Question 2   The Northern Ireland Assembly can make decisions on which TWO of the following areas?

  1. Agriculture
  2. Nuclear Energy
  3. Foreign Policy
  4. The Environment

Question 3   What was inscribed on some Iron Age coins found in Britain?

  1. Dates
  2. Values
  3. Names of Iron Age kings
  4. Names of Iron Age settlements

Question 4   Which of the following statements is correct?

  1. Visitors are not allowed in the Senned
  2. The Senned is an open building and visitors may book tours.

Question 5 Which TWO facts are true of the individual voter registration system?

  1. Registered Voters remain on the register until a change in their personal details
  2. Eligible Voters complete their own registration forms
  3. An individual registers his/her whole family to vote
  4. The electoral register is fully updated every year

Now go and lie down in a darkened room and recover before looking up the answers at the end of this month’s newsletters. Don’t dispute the answers- it’s nothing to do with me.

 Welcome on board 

At our meeting of YCoS trustees and leaders in February, we welcomed Evie Kyte as a co-opted trustee. We look forward to her contribution as we seek to progress our organisation out of lockdown.  Evie lives in York and works at Hull University. She brings very welcome skills to the table.

At the same meeting, we appointed Claire Newhouse as Treasurer, to succeed Michael Worthington, who retired in September 2020. Claire is already a trustee, so we are pleased that she is able to take on this role. She brings her knowledge of the organisation to the official post.

It was also reported to the leadership team that the Shops of Sanctuary pilot project, which was trialled in York in 2019 onwards, is now to be rolled out across the country by Oxfam and City of Sanctuary, once shops are able to open again. We are pleased to have been part of that successful venture and look forward to hearing of its impact as it is taken up in other towns and cities of the UK.

Refugee Week 2021 is in June and in York will be mostly digital. A programme of events will be in the next newsletter. The leaders agreed to provide sponsorship of the Annual York Children’s Art Competition, as part of YCoS support for the week.

Here Today…….

The York Hotel accommodating around 85 asylum seekers continues to be fully occupied, as it has been since last June. Weekly online meetings are held with a range of support groups, including City of York Council officers, a local ward councillor, Refugee Action York, a GP from the practice providing medical oversight, a manager from Mears who are contracted to provide the accommodation, Migration Yorkshire, the North Yorkshire Police, and York City of Sanctuary. We work to support the health, welfare and well-being of those staying at the hotel.

The question being asked now is, ‘How much longer will people be staying in York?’ The answer to that is not totally clear. The Home Office announced ‘Operation Oak’ towards the end of February. The code name does sound like a clandestine military exercise. The ‘Operation’ involves moving all those currently housed in hotels in England, Wales and Scotland into alternative accommodation. That is estimated at around 9,000 people being moved. The Home Office has neither confirmed nor denied a speculated date of completion as the end of April. That is an amazingly optimistic target unless the Home Office has a very cunning plan. Do they have a recipe for a cheap and speedy solution to the logistics?

Are Impoverished, neglected and filthy camps value for money to British taxpayers?

The last newsletter raised concerns about housing asylum seekers in former military camps. Would this be the cheap and speedy ‘Oak’ plan? Move people from hotels to barracks?

The Penally camp in Wales is being closed down and handed back to the MoD at the end of March. However, the Napier camp near Folkestone continues to operate. Public Health England advised the Home Office that dormitory style housing was unsuitable during the Covid19 pandemic, and that conditions would be too crowded. The Home Office went ahead and opened anyway, By January this year, 197 out of the 380 residents at the Napier camp were Covid positive. The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration published a report on March 10th 2021 finding that both camps were ‘impoverished’, ‘neglected’, and ‘filthy’.  The British Red Cross has regularly raised issues about the poor living conditions and unsafe and inappropriate environments at both camps.

Asked about the placing of asylum seekers in former military camps, Priti Patel (Home Secretary) claimed that the Home Office followed procedures laid down by Public Health England, and the camps were a secure environment in the fight against Covid19. (See the previous paragraph to check the facts.)

She has declined several times to answer whether more camps will be brought into use. However, she commented that the British taxpayer expects value for money, and anything more than basic accommodation is an un-necessary expense. For the time being Napier barracks will ‘remain in operation in accordance with current needs.’

Go to the BBC Sounds App

Radio 4 – File on 4; March 16th 2021; 8-8.40 pm; ‘Spotlight on UK asylum housing’. This is an excellent piece of journalism, worth hearing.

Thank you

Those who are in York seeking help as they apply for asylum, seeking to extend their refugees status in the UK, or applying for UK citizenship, continue to access our support in finding legal aid, and assisting in the payment of fees. It is a much-needed service.

Donations enable us, for example, to pay basic fees of £450 for a single person to apply for asylum. Additional payments may be required for translating documents supporting their case to the Home Office. We could find informal translators in York, but are required to use those approved by the Home Office, thereby ensuring that translations are not questioned and declined.

Many thanks for providing financial support, either individually, through an organisation, or faith community to which you belong. It is a great encouragement to our work.

Making a donation to York City of Sanctuary

See https://york.cityofsanctuary.org/donate

Answers to the Citizenship Questions

Question 1        A (India) and    D (USA)

Question 2        A (Agriculture) D (Environment)

Question 3        C (names of kings)

Question 4        B (The Welsh Senned is open to visitors)

Question 5        B (Eligible persons complete their own form) D (register updated each year)

Score 4 and 5 correct answers. You can now pay £2660 for you and your partner to live peacefully in the UK. For a further £70 you can attend the ceremony to welcome you as a UK citizen in the Lord Mayor’s office. (Don’t forget to pay the Lawyer £450 in fees).

Score 0-3 Forget citizenship. You will have to try again, and pay another exam fee to do so. Concentrate on learning about Iron Age Britain. You will find it a useful talking point when meeting other Iron Age Britons on the bus or in the café.