IAN Blackford is demanding a face-to-face meeting with Theresa May to resolve an “absolutely shocking” situation in which thousands of people in the UK, like the Windrush Generation, are undocumented citizens being denied their basic human rights.
The SNP leader at Westminster claimed that as many as 120,000 people across the UK were in a position where they could face having to pay almost £12,000 over 10 years to get British citizenship even though many would have been born here.
“This is absolutely shocking. This is a wrong that has to be righted,” declared Mr Blackford, who insisted he was seeking to garner cross-party support for what he believed would be a major human rights campaign.
The Highland MP confronted the Prime Minister on the issue at Commons question-time when he said: “The Windrush scandal has taught us that the UK Government's hostile environment policy has targeted those who legally live here.
"Young people, who have grown up in the UK and know of nothing else, face losing their lawful settled status because they simply cannot afford the paperwork. Home Office fees have increased by 148 per cent since 2014; these children have the right to be here, the UK is their home.
"I am giving the Prime Minister today, the opportunity; will she scrap these fees for young people as she has done for the Windrush generation?"
Mrs May stressed: "A minor who has indefinite leave to remain will have access to benefits and entitlements, which put them on an equal footing to their British citizen peers, so a grant of British citizenship is not therefore required."
She explained that specific exemptions from application fees were provided to several groups with limited means such as stateless people, victims of modern slavery or domestic abuse, asylum applicants, and children who were looked after by a local authority.
She added that the 1989 Children's Act imposed a general duty on local authorities to promote the upbringing of children in need by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs regardless of their status.
But Mr Blackford declared: "That simply is not good enough. We're talking about up to 120,000 young people in this country, we're talking about young people who live here, who have to wait 10 years and pay up to £10,000 to achieve permanent rights to remain, it is shocking.
"This Government is guilty of creating a generation of undocumented citizens without the rights that many of us take for granted.”
Mrs May said she did not recognise the figures the SNP leader had quoted and repeated how a minor with indefinite leave to remain could access the benefits and entitlements which put them on an equal footing to their British citizen peers.
“So a grant of British citizenship is not required in order to be able to have access to those rights and benefits," she added.
But later Mr Blackford insisted the PM had not understood the question. "This is not about benefits but people who want to make a contribution to life in the UK…She was talking about people who came here as asylum-seekers but was not talking about people who were born here; she had the wrong brief”.
The MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said that, like the Windrush Generation, many of these people only found they did not have the proper documentation until they tried to access NHS care or apply to university. The rolling costs of seeking leave to remain in the UK amounted to a “citizenship tax,” he claimed.
Mr Blackford added: “My concern is a lot of these people will be lost and will go underground; they won’t have the ability to fund this. These are people who should be making an economic contribution to the UK. If you are here legitimately, this is a huge barrier. They run the risk ultimately of being deported.”