I am a big fan of Dave Chappelle. He is one of the greatest comedians of our time and his observations on culture are among the most incisive there are. His stand-up special For What it’s Worth is generally regarded as his magnum opus. This is my favourite part:
Through comedy, Chappelle asks an important question: how old is 15 really? His question hints at something bigger, namely: at what age do we expect that children and young people should be treated like adults? This question is particularly relevant today with the news that children as young as 10 have been denied UK citizenship for failing the ‘good character’ test. Reporting in The Guardian, Aamna Mohdin notes that:
In some cases, children who were born in the UK have been turned down on the basis of convictions for crimes as trivial as petty theft, with even offences that are punished with a caution or a fine considered serious enough to warrant their rejection.
I know of many people that were born in this country who have been convicted for petty theft or been fined or cautioned. These people are civil servants, government ministers, sports stars, actors and presenters; people from every walk of life. Do these British people have ‘good character’?
Solange Valdez-Symonds, the director of the campaign group the Project for Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) described the children she has seen as:
“…destitute or very poor. At least half are looked after children or have had some sort of social service intervention. All of them are black.”
All I’m going to say about that is “There is no definition of ‘good character’ in the British Nationality Act 1981” and, as Mohdin points out:
A 2017 review of the good character requirement by David Bolt, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, called on the Home Office to review the guidance and ensure it “makes explicit the scope for caseworkers to exercise discretion”. The government accepted the recommendations and noted: “Updated guidance will be published by the end of December .” The Home Office is yet to publish this guidance…
The first part that I’ve highlighted speaks of discretion. It seems unlikely that the preponderance of black children that are being rejected is a coincidence. Nor am I saying that the caseworkers that oversee the process are racist. But unconscious bias is a real thing and I wonder if these staff have had training on this. Or maybe they don’t know about their powers of discretion. The Home Office is 9 months late in publishing the guidance that could stop 10 year old children from being denied citizenship, and I’m willing to guess that these caseworkers are overworked and underpaid, with no time to go to the level of research it takes to find a government response to an independent chief inspector of borders and immigration. Typing that last sentence felt like the kind of end user agreement that is 36 pages long, that we skip to the bottom and tick that we’ve read. As always, the devil is in the details.
I wonder if the government have made a calculation that mostly black children with police records are cared about so little that they can do to them as they please with no consequence. If that’s the case, they’re probably right. After all, black children and teenagers make up a small percentage of the population. You know who make up a significantly larger percentage? White women. And the case of Inga Lockington, A Liberal Democrat councillor for 19 years and former Mayor of Ipswich, could be a catalyst for much needed change.
When a women who has lived here for nearly 40 years, with no criminal record, and a long record of public service, is denied citizenship, things have reached a tipping point. She has committed no crime and seems to have good character – political affiliations aside (careful…Ed) – and yet is treated like a criminal. Ignoring the plight of white women is not a smart move politically, and a well-working governing party would be wise to ensure their needs are attended to.
(A well-working governing party? I’ll leave you with a selection of headlines – Ed)
Have a good weekend.