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Shelley (daughter of St. Helena) Nationality by descent discrimination story.

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

For more information and Trent's story go to our campaign main web page:

I am sharing this story by a young lady called Shelley J., of St. Helenian descent, living in South Africa. St. Helena is one of the British fourteen British Overseas Territories.

She wrote to our campaign to tell her experience of discrimination she faces in British Nationality laws. When we started our campaign, we believed it was only the children, now adults, born out-of-wedlock to British Overseas Territories Fathers that faced this specific discrimination; we were wrong.

In 2019, through Home Office correspondence, we became aware the same injustice is laden upon children born to British Overseas Territories Mothers born before 1 January 1983. Shelley J. is one of these children and is now an adult.

She wants to be officially recognized and embraced for St. Helanian British & British Overseas Territories nationality & citizenship.

The Home Office, run by the Home Secretary Priti Patel, knows precisely what they need to do to align the BNA 1981 to remove the discrimination retrospectively. We have made the case to them; it's up to them to move legislation to parliament and not let another year go by.

Here's Shelley's story:

"I was born March 1979 in South Africa, raised by my St. Helenian-born mother born in 1943, and my St. Helenian maternal grandparents who were also married on the island.

My mother was not married at the time of my birth, and my father's details are unknown. They arrived in South Africa as British subjects and were all citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

My whole childhood was centered on my St. Helenian heritage, and I was taught from a young age to be proud of it!

Two years ago, I decided to get in touch with my heritage and submitted all documents required to "claim my heritage" left for me by my mother and my grandparents. They, at that time, according to their passports, stated they were valid for all parts of the commonwealth and all foreign countries.

I received this reply via the immigration office, who informed me that: “I am not entitled to citizenship because I was born to a Saint Helena mother, but had it been my father, I would have been entitled.” COMPLETE discrimination, yet here we are in 2021 and nothing has been done to assist the adult children of BOTC to claim retrospective rights to British & British Overseas Territories citizenship.

For St. Helenian status, a person must first qualify for British Dependent Territories Citizenship - we use the British Nationalities Act (BNA) to ascertain this. We use the dates of birth of the person in question to refer to the relevant BNA.

Here's the response I got back from the UK Immigration & Nationality Service:

"In response to your email below, I can confirm that your mother and grandparents qualified as follows:

As you were born in 1979, we referred to the previous 1948 British Nationalities act. The 1948 act gives preference to the male line (as was very common to do with a lot of situations in those days). You didn't gain status because of the following clause in the BNA 1948 5 (I) "Subject to the provisions of this section, a person born after the commencement of this Act shall be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by descent if his father is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies at the time of the birth..." the keyword being "father."

So basically, this means is that if your father was born in St Helena, you might have qualified for British Overseas Territories Citizenship; however, your father is unknown, and unfortunately, the descent cannot be passed to you via your mother, and you yourself were not born in St. Helena.

I understand you might think this unfortunate and unfair, but this was the law in those days, and the repercussions still resonate."

"British Subjects - Part 1.1. (1) (a) Any person born within His Majesty's dominions and allegiance - under the British Nationalities Act 1914.

“Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies -12. (I) (a) .... born within the territories... -

transitional under the British Nationalities Act 1948”

“British Dependent Territories Citizen - 23. (1) (a) immediately before commencement, he was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies who had that citizenship by his birth in a dependent territory - acquisition at commencement under the British Nationalities Act 1981.”

Your mother and grandparents were all born in St Helena; thus, they all qualified as British Dependent Territories Citizens (BDTC) under the British Nationalities Act 1981.

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