Trent L. Miller (Actor/Advocate)

Significant discrimination persists in getting British Overseas Territory Citizenship...

Trent Miller's ('Silcott') Story

A clear example of one of these children, now an adult, is American-born Actor/Advocate Trent Lamont Miller ('Silcott.'). In 2010, he researched if he could claim British & British Overseas Territories citizenship, by descent, through his father, Abraham. Trent's father was born in 1942 in the former British colony, now British overseas territory, called Montserrat. Trent's grandparents were also born on the British island. 

 

In the 1960s, Trent's father lived and worked in London before temporarily moving to the USA to study. Due to law changes in the early 1970s, Trent's father found that he no longer enjoyed the right-of-abode in the U.K, and was forced to remain in the USA. Trent has half-siblings living in London, and half-siblings living in the USA. Trent's connection to the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat and the mainland U.K. is strong and long-standing based on family connections. 

 

Trent is 'shut out' from his right to claim British & British Overseas Territory citizenship by descent via his father simply because Trent's father could not marry his American mother. However, his half-siblings living in the USA can make a claim because his father did marry their mother. The result is: family members are treated differently under British nationality law, which results in divided families. This situation is grossly unfair. 


British nationality law is discriminatory & divides families. The UK and Montserrat treat Trent as a visitor and not a person who has the right-to-belong. It impacts his culture and identity; he feels denied and deprived through no-fault of his own.

 

This issue of the denial of British & British-overseas-territories citizenship by-descent came to the public spotlight in 2009, after a campaign by Tabitha Sprague, of a group called U.K. Citizenship Equality Campaign. In 2014, she managed to get the British Nationality Act 1981 amended to allow illegitimate children, now adults, born to U.K. mainland fathers ONLY to have a retrospective right-to-register for citizenship. In Tabitha's case, her father was a British mainland-born, and her mother, an American. 

The late Lord Eric Avebury, and former British M.P. Julian Huppert, helped change the British Nationality Act 1981 ('BNA') through Section 65 of the Immigration Act of 2014 as it made its way through the House of Lords. Amendments made provided for the first time, the ability for people like Tabitha to register their births retrospectively and then go on to apply for British nationality & citizenship by-descent based on her unmarried father.

 

However, there was one significant omission. These amendments were not inclusive of all the "just as British & deserving" illegitimately born children of British Overseas Territories born fathers, like Trent. The excuse was given by the British government's Home Office Minister at the time Lord Taylor of Holbeach, during the final stages of the debate, to Human Rights Peer Advocate, the late Lord Eric Avebury was: 

 

"I know that my noble friend is also concerned about British Overseas Territories citizens. Changes to those provisions require consultation with the territories concerned, which has not been possible in the time available. However, I assure my noble friend that the government will look for suitable opportunities to discuss this issue with the overseas territories once the provisions are implemented."

 

(Hansard 6 May 2014: Column 1416)

 

We have an unequal position in British nationality law. Had we been included in the amendments; the law would be fairer for ALL children born out-of-wedlock. This failure to include us treats us as "less than" when it comes to our rights to inherit our father's citizenship. 

During the course of our campaign, we also became aware that children born abroad to British Overseas Territories Mothers before 1 January 1983, are also denied a route to claim their unmarried mothers British & British Overseas Territories citizenship by descent. Please see Shelley’s story in the ‘Blog & News’ tab. 

 

Dependent on the year of your birth, where you are born, if your parents are married or not, dictates if you qualify. Here are examples of when the same categories of children qualify, which makes the law unequal:

  • Discrimination does not apply if your child is born after 1 July 2006. The parent’s marital status is irrelevant.

  • Discrimination does not apply if your child is born abroad to a British Overseas Territories citizen Mother after 1 January 1983

British nationality law, which dictates the treatment of British Overseas Territories children-of-descent needs to be urgently amended, to make it fair to all children born out of wedlock.

It's been six long years since Lord Taylor's statement to the now-late Lord Eric Avebury. The mantle for the campaign has been taken-up by Baroness Ruth Lister of Burtersett. She tirelessly advocates and pressures the Home Office to bring forth primary legislation to fix this unequal situation.

 

We understand consultation has taken place between the Home Office and respective British Overseas Territories governments. The issue is now subject to an informal engagement process with key-nationality stakeholders in the U.K. legal world. The British government has been slow to bring forth a bill. There is no reason to delay this. The urgent need for action has been raised in many written questions to the Home Office and discussed in two parliamentary reports:

 

1. Joint Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Harriet Harman QC MP

2. Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Tom Tugendhat MP

 

We are tired of being treated as "less-than" & made to feel like "strangers & visitors to our fathers' homelands." The lack of official recognition prevents us from being fully assimilated into our fathers' rich cultural roots. We demand a right to 'official recognition and acknowledgment' to have a complete family life.

 

The U.K. government needs to act NOW! and bring forth amendments. 

It would be helpful if citizens of the British Overseas Territories and the Diaspora living in the U.K. would pressure their local M.P.'s & respective territory governments to end this discrimination. You can make a difference, which will lead to a historical change in the law. 

  • We have every right to have our fathers and mother's British citizenship by descent!

  • No illegitimate child should ever be made to be less-than and cast-out!

  • We all have a right to live in a fairer and equal world!

  • Where's the notion of 'British Fair Play' when it comes to us?

 

End this discrimination now!

- Home Office Minister, Lord Taylor of Holbeach
"...changes to those provisions require consultation with the territories concerned, and this has not been possible in the time available. However, I assure my noble friend that the Government will look for suitable opportunities to discuss this issue with the overseas territories once the provisions are implemented." (Citation: HL Deb, 6 May 2014, c1416)   

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