Exclusive: Mohamed Bangoura, born in Leeds in 2012, blocked from reuniting with his mother in Britain after Home Office revoked his passport.
A six-year-old boy who has lived in the UK all of his life has been prevented from returning home to his mother following a holiday after the Home Office revoked his passport.
Mohamed Barrak Diallo Bangoura, who was born in Leeds in 2012, had been staying in Belgium with family friends for six weeks during the school holidays.
He was due to board a flight home to his mother on Sunday, but officials at Zaventem airport in Brussels said the Home Office had instructed them he could not travel to the UK.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott described the case as “truly shocking” and said the act of blocking a UK-born child from returning home was “exactly one of the effects” of the government’s hostile environment.
The Home Office said they issued a letter to Hawa Keita, the boy’s mother, who is of Guinean origin and lives in Sheffield, in March informing her that her son’s passport had been issued in error and had been “revoked” due to questions surrounding his British citizenship.
But Ms Keita told The Independent she had not received this letter until it was sent to her via email when she contacted the Home Office after her son was blocked from the flight on Sunday.
The letter states that the child’s claim to British citizenship was no longer valid because it had “come to light” that the man Ms Keita was married to at the time of his birth was not settled in Britain.
Since a change to legislation in 1983, children born in the UK will only have British citizenship if at least one of their parents is a British citizen or is living in the UK with permission to stay in the country permanently.
The boy now remains in Brussels with the family he was staying with, friends of his mother. Ms Keita is in the UK and unable to travel because she was residing in the country based on her son’s British citizenship.
Abdoul Diallo, a political advisor for the EU who has been looking after the child in his family home in Belgium and took him to the airport on Sunday, told The Independent he was shocked when he was prevented from boarding the flight.
“We went through all checks and security controls in the airport, but as we were about to board the plane, the staff said British authorities had sent them an email saying the child cannot board,” he said.
“It was a shock. We were told to go to the British embassy, but it was Sunday and the next day was a bank holiday. I had to call the Belgian police, who gave me a document saying I should look after the child until a solution is found.”
Mr Diallo said that Mohamed appeared to be relaxed about the situation so far, but warned that it may become more difficult once his friends go back to school on Wednesday, at which point he will be looked after by Mr Diallo’s mother.
“We’re going to have him for one more week. He has been happily playing with my eight-year-old daughter and my nephew who is six, but they will start school tomorrow. That’s when he will start realising the situation,” he said.
“Hawa is residing in the UK based on his British nationality, so she cannot leave the country, meaning for the time being the child is stuck here. No matter what the parents have done, the child shouldn’t be separated from them.”
Responding to the incident, Ms. Abbott told The Independent: “This case is truly shocking. That this government would preside over a system blocking a six-year-old born here from returning home is almost beyond belief.
“We have ministers telling us they are sorting out the Windrush scandal, and their hostile environment isn’t to blame. But this shows their reassurances are worthless.
“People being refused re-entry here is exactly one of the effects of their policies. It will keep on happening until they abandon the hostile environment altogether.”
Chai Patel, legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), called for a full and independent inquiry into “this shambles of a Home Office”, accusing the department of “stranding a young child in a foreign country, when the only home he knows is in the UK”.
“He was born in Leeds. It is disgraceful that he is not being allowed to return, and shows that the Home Secretary continues to have scant regard to his legal duty to safeguard the best interests of children,” he added.
The letter to Ms Keita from the Home Office in March stated that the child’s claim to British citizenship was no longer valid because it had “come to light” that neither she nor her husband was settled in Britain at the time of the child’s birth.
“We have recently been made aware that passport number X issued on the 28/11/2017 should not have been issued,” it states.
“In accordance with Section 9 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, any entitlement for British Citizenship for Mohamed would only have been able to come through you or your husband and it would appear that neither of you was settled in the UK at the time of the birth.”
It continues: “I can, therefore, confirm that [the] passport has been revoked by Her Majesty’s Passport Office as Mohamed has no entitlement to the document.”
In response, a Home Office spokesperson said: “A letter was sent to Mohamed’s mother in March advising her that her son’s passport had been revoked. We understand that despite this Mohamed was taken out of the UK in July and last Sunday was unable to re-enter as he did not hold a valid passport.
“The Immigration Minister has asked officials to urgently look into all available options, in this case, to reunite Mohamed with his mother.”