‘Attempt to cut them off’: Tamil couple protests UK’s move to give citizenship to their kids

With the kids already in foster care, the move to give them UK citizenship would mean the family could be separated forever.
‘Attempt to cut them off’: Tamil couple protests UK’s move to give citizenship to their kids
‘Attempt to cut them off’: Tamil couple protests UK’s move to give citizenship to their kids
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A month after TNM first reported on the plight of a Tamil couple fighting for custody of their children in the United Kingdom, Mohammed and Jasmin have now written to the Indian Consulate in Birmingham, asking them to mount a diplomatic protest. The reason: the local government in Birmingham, UK is mulling the possibility of granting British citizenship to the children who are now under foster care. This would mean that the couple could lose their children to the British system forever. Alarmed by the prospect, both the father, who is in the UK at present and the mother, who lives with her sister in Singapore, have also written to the Family Court in the English city against the move. 

The parents’ protest is critical considering that, if the children are given UK citizenship, the Indian Consulate in Birmingham will have no further access to them. Currently, the Indian Consulate is providing legal and consular support to the parents. 

The couple, originally from Nagapattinam, went to the UK and overstayed their visa. While seeking support from the Birmingham City Council after Mohammed lost his job, the couple’s children, a six-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter – born after 13 years of marriage – were taken away by the authorities. The couple was accused of 'using their kids' to seek financial support. It has been over four years since the parents have had any contact with their children – now 10 and eight years old – in person or over the phone. 

In a letter to the Family Court in Birmingham, Mohammad has said, “I am extremely concerned to see that the Local Authority is now saying that they will apply for British citizenship for my children.” 

“This is a purely malicious move on their part to thwart the chances of my children being returned to India. Consular access is said to have been given to my children, and it is the accepted position that my children are Indian nationals. While the issue of their repatriation to their homeland of India is pending before this Hon’ble Court, the Local Authority ought not to take any action to change the status of my children by applying for British citizenship for them. This would be prejudicial to the determination of their very rights and interests which are under active consideration by this Hon’ble Court,” he said. 

Significantly, during the initial hearings, the Family Court had said that Mohammed was trying to prolong the case in order to seek citizenship for his son. 

“The entire basis of the Indian Consulate's intervention in this matter by attending court hearings and seeking consular access to the children is that they are Indian nationals. The Birmingham Council must not be permitted to go behind the back of the Indian Consulate and change my children's nationality. In a similar case in Norway concerning Indian children, when the Norwegian authorities tried to extend the visas of the children while their repatriation was being discussed with the Indian Consulate, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a protest. I request that my children be given the same consideration and a diplomatic protest be lodged without delay,” Mohammad has said in his letter to the Consul General of India in Birmingham

Now it appears that the local authorities are willing to grant citizenship to the children they have placed under the foster care of a Pakistani family. The family has protested this too, stating that the children's ethnicity and Tamil Muslim heritage were not accounted for despite assurances from the court.

A letter from social worker Emma Rushton who has been allocated the children's case said that the authorities intend to seek British citizenship for the children – and has stressed that a trust in Birmingham are the ‘corporate parent’ of the two children. “The legal advice obtained is that the process is generally straightforward given that Birmingham Children’s Trust are corporate parent for the child and hold parental responsibility to make decisions relating to their immigration,” (sic) the letter said.

Arguing that the local authority cannot apply for citizenship for the kids since immigration falls under the Home Office, Mohammed said, “In these circumstances the offer of citizenship is only and solely with a view to further cutting my children off from their family and from any hope of being repatriated to their homeland of India. My children are being made scapegoats of the system.”

Soon after the publication of TNM’s report on the issue, the Indian Consulate in Birmingham had responded stating, “CGI Birmingham has been extending all possible legal and consular support to Shri Mohamed Yusuf, and is in constant touch with all relevant authorities including City Council of Birmingham.” 

In July, Consular access was provided by the authorities and two officials from the Indian Consulate visited the children. Given that the Indian nationality of the children has been acknowledged with such consular access, the couple have also asked that no action be taken to issue visas or citizenship to the children while the issue of their repatriation to India is pending.

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