Deportation looms after UK Hom

Deportation looms after UK Home Office rejects South African English

Two recent Home Office battles outline ongoing challenges with regards to the naturalisation of South Africans as UK citizens, as an unexpected language barrier seems to hinder the process

Deportation looms after UK Hom

The Home Office has come in the firing line following two recent recent cases involving South Africans who applied for UK citizenship but ended up threatened with deportation – on account of not providing evidence that they can speak English.

Johannesburg native Donovan Tapping applied for British citizenship after living in Cumbria for nearly ten years and going through various stages of being granted indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom. Following his recent nuptials to partner Shelley and taking the mandatory “Life in the UK” test, the 36-year-old did not expect any further hurdles along the way to UK citizenship – until he learned he would have to prove his English language skills as well.

Donovan Tapping with his wife

Unbeknown to Tapping, he had ticked the wrong box on the application form, saying that South Africa was a majority English-speaking country. But with 11 official languages (and 15 other languages respected in the South African Constitution), the UK considers English a minority language in South Africa on account of the low percentage of first-language speakers.

Tapping has lodged an appeal, which – if refused – may likely result in his deportation from the UK. This would effectively mean that he would have to start his application process from scratch from a British embassy in South Africa, losing years accrued towards citizenship – in addition to the financial burdens associated with uprooting his life.

Jason Nish, another South African expat living on the English-Scottish border, encountered the same problem weeks earlier. Having also spent about a decade in the UK  before applying for citizenship, the father-of-two was prompted to prove he can sufficiently speak English by taking an official test – despite the fact that English is the only language Nish speaks. But with all his official papers, including the sole identity document he holds, his passport, being held with the Home Office for processing, the 28-year-old is unable to take the test, effectively facing imminent deportation based on an unfortunate technicality.

“I’ve not lived in South Africa since I was 10, and over the last decade I’ve made my life here in Carlisle,” Nish said in an interview published by the Carlisle-based News & Star.

“My mother is British, my grandfather is British, my partner is British, and we have two wonderful children. English is my first and my only language. I even have a Carlisle accent. I regard myself as British.”

Jason Nish with his son

Merely 10 per cent of South Africans are reported to be English speakers, despite the fact that most official business in South Africa is conducted in English. However, this appears of little interest to the Home Office when it comes to the naturalisation of prospective citizens, as both Jason Nish and Donovan Tapping continue to face their respective bureaucratic battles with little leeway to fight the regulations other than lodging appeal and hoping that their cases will be reevaluated on individual merit.

In a bid to to draw attention to his plight Nish decided to get creative and use the power of social media. Within 24 hours of creating a petition, Nish had rounded up over 2,000 supporters, with several sharing details of their own impasses with the Home Office. Within two weeks, Nish reached almost 3,000 signatures.

Tapping has followed suit and created a Facebook page to shed light on his battle. While Tapping has so far only managed to attract just over 600 hundred followers, his story did make it into the mainstream UK press, highlighting ongoing challenges and the inherent dysfunctions within the centralised Home Office immigration and naturalisation procedures.

However, no matter how many signatures or how much support Nish and Tapping may manage to attract, the two men are unlikely to be able to use this as leverage against the Home Office, which is simply working according to standard procedures, following rules enshrined within immigration law.

A statement from the Home Office with regards to Nish’s application in the original News & Star article reads:

“Our immigration rules clearly state that individuals applying for indefinite leave to remain, who are not from English-speaking countries, must provide evidence of having an approved English language qualification. This is fair to applicants and to the rest of the public. Mr Nish’s application was refused because he failed to provide evidence that he had passed a language qualification. He has the right to appeal this decision”

By Sertan Sanderson, 2014