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London-born baby with British-resident parents denied UK status

‘If I, who am lucky enough to have worked for the BBC and worked in parliament, am getting this level of aggression, what must many other immigrants in this country be suffering from?’

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Saturday 20 April 2019 13:37 BST
Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?

A baby that was born in the UK to two British-resident parents has been denied the right to live in the country. Human rights lawyers called the decision “shameful” and “potentially unlawful”.

Dr Charles Kriel, a US national and special adviser to a parliamentary select committee, was returning to Britain from Florida with his fiancee Katharina Viken and their 15-week-old daughter, Viola Pearl Viken-Kriel when they were stopped by border officials.

They said his child did not have the right to reside in the country.

Instead they said she could enter the UK but only on a six-month tourist visa specifying that she must not work or use public services.

Dr Kriel, 56, has lived in the UK legally since the late 1990s and has indefinite leave to remain. His fiancee – a Norwegian national – has been a British resident from more than a decade. They live together with their baby in Southwark, south London.

Mr Kriel described his experience at the border, saying: “I felt crushed and frankly afraid. It’s the very last thing I expected.

“The immigration officer was aggressive. He was pointing out problems but not why things were problems. They were saying that just because she was born in the UK it didn’t mean she had a right to stay but would give no explanation as to why, just, ‘sort it out’. It’s the public services restriction that worries me, as babies should make fairly regular visits to the NHS. In a sense that’s denying the child healthcare.”

Dr Kriel said that while he “loved” being in the UK, the environment and attitude had “changed with regard to immigrants”, to the point where his fiancee had begun to question whether the family should stay in Britain.

“If I, who am lucky enough to have worked for the BBC and worked in parliament, am getting this level of aggression, what must many other immigrants in this country be suffering from?” he added.

Dr Kriel was told his 15-week old baby Viola did not have the right to reside in the country (Charles Kriel)
Dr Kriel and his fiancee are both British residents but were told their UK-born daughter had no right to live in the UK (Charles Kriel)

Human rights lawyer Shoaib Khan questioned the legitimacy of the decision, saying it was “not just shameful and unacceptable but potentially unlawful”.

“A child born to a person who has indefinite leave to remain in the UK is a British citizen by birth. If, as seems to be the case, the father had indefinite leave to remain when the child was born, this child is British,” he said. “The fact that she was travelling on a US passport does not affect her rights as a British national. The mother is an EEA national residing in the UK, so the child will likely have a right to reside in the UK on that basis too.”

He added that the case was “one of hundreds of similarly absurd and inhumane decisions taken by the Home Office daily”.

Border officials put a stamp in Viola’s passport indicating that she was on a six-month tourist visa and must not work or use public services (Charles Kriel)

“While inhumane and appalling, the way this three-month-old baby has been treated is par for the course for the Home Office. This is no accident and no mistake. This is the hostile environment that Theresa May created and her successors have continued,” he added.

“The Home Office must apologise to the family immediately and finally put an end to the open hostility towards any individual who dares to be in this country without a British passport.”

The government has been approached for comment.

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