THE HOME Office illegally charged children a "scandalously high" amount to register as British citizens, a court has ruled.

The Court of Appeal said the £1012 fee charged by Priti Patel's department was in breach of its right to safeguard the welfare of children in the UK.

The case was brought by a 13-year-old girl, known only as O, who was born in the UK but was unable to afford the fee to register, along with campaign group The Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC).

Currently the Home Office charges children the fee to register as British Citizens if they were born outside the UK, or if they were born in the UK before their parents were granted citizenship or settled status.

Researchers estimate that there are around 120,000 children in the UK without British citizenship and about 65,000 of them were born in the UK.

The cost to the UK Government to register these children is just £372, leaving a £640 profit on each application which is then used to subsidise the immigration system.

In 2019 the High Court ruled that the fee was unlawful, saying the Home Office "failed to have regard to the best interests" of children.

It also said the evidence showed that "for a substantial number of children, a fee of £1,012 is simply unaffordable" and this made the children affected "feel alienated, excluded, isolated, second-best, insecure and not fully assimilated into the culture and social fabric of the UK".

After appealing the decision, the Court of Appeal today upheld the original ruling and dismissed the challenge.

Lord Justice David Richards said: "There is no issue but that the recent and current levels of fees have had a serious adverse impact on the ability of a significant number of children to apply successfully for registration.

“In cases such as that of O, one of three children of a single parent on state benefits, it is difficult to see how the fee could be afforded at all.”

Speaking after the hearing, 13-year-old 'O' said: "I was born in this country and have lived here all my life.

“I am no less British than any of my friends. It makes me upset to think they or other people might treat me as different if they knew I don’t have a British passport.

“I have a right to citizenship and have since I was 10.

“I do not understand why I continue to be excluded by this huge fee.”

Her solicitor Solange Valdez-Symonds, co-founder of the PRCBC, said: “The Government’s priority ought to be to ensure every child with rights to British citizenship can have this confirmed, with all the security, opportunity and sense of belonging that comes with that.

“I continue to be deeply disturbed that thousands of children are blocked by this huge fee from registering their right to British citizenship, given to them by an Act of Parliament.

“This must stop.”

Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP and Home Affairs spokesman said: " Alistair Carmichael MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs, urged the fees to be reduced immediately:

“It’s shameful that children are being denied their rights by these outrageous, extortionate Home Office fees. The Government should immediately reduce these fees to no more than the cost of administration.

“I’ve almost lost count of the number of times this Conservative Government’s policies have been found to be unlawful. These cases highlight why it’s so important that individuals can hold governments to account through the courts using judicial review.

“Instead of wasting taxpayers’ money defending her bad decisions in the courts, Priti Patel should get on with fixing our immigration system so that everyone is treated with dignity and the public can have confidence that it is fair and effective.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Citizenship registration fees are charged as part of a wider fees approach designed to reduce the burden on UK taxpayers.

“The Home Office acknowledges the court’s ruling and will review child registration fees in due course.”