A pair of British-born 24-year-old twins are facing deportation to countries they have never visited. There's a dangerous historical parallel to this in British historyby Christiana Spens / July 29, 2020 / Leave a comment
From the seventeenth until the early twentieth centuries, several hundred thousand criminals were sent away to Australia, the Caribbean and America as part of the colonial-era policy of penal transportation. Crowded onto “convict ships” and sent away to lands they had never even visited, they were exiled from the communities and the country they had been born and raised in.
My own ancestors, a pair of twin brothers, were sent from Cornwall to Melbourne at the age of 12, for the crime of stealing small change. There, they was forced to make a new life for themselves, without family or community, or the real hope of ever seeing them again. This displacement was their punishment; the sentence was for life. Two hundred years later, another set of twin boys—Darrell and Darren Roberts, born in West London—are facing a similar fate, both threatened with deportation to two separate Caribbean countries they have never visited. The archaic, and much-derided policy of penal transportation has returned, it seems, throwing up urgent questions about the legal status of being born in the UK, and of having British citizenship.
In the cases of Darren and Darrell Roberts, the precarious status of being British-born becomes particularly clear. Many would assume that being born here would automatically make someone a British citizen. Certainly, it means that one is eligible to claim British citizenship. However, as has become apparent to these two young men, unless your parent is a British citizen at the time of your birth, your own citizenship is not automatic. Rather, that citizenship depends on a costly application being filed out and accepted. Until that happens, you are not officially a British citizen, even if you have a birth certificate showing that you have been born here—and even if you have no other citizenship. For Darren and Darrell Roberts, who were taken into state care at 13 when their mother died, and who never received citizenship as children or young adults as their parents and social services did not apply for it, this absence of paper work has led to both of them, now 24 and in prison, to face deportation on completion of their sentences.
A spokesperson for…