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Legal insights & industry updates

| 1 minute read

Sir Mo Farah's admission shines light on survivors of child trafficking

Sir Mo Farah this week disclosed that he was trafficked to the UK as a child and forced into domestic servitude. His courage to speak out has helped shine a light on the experiences of child victims of trafficking, including the fear that such children live with well into adulthood that they will somehow be held personally to account for the actions of their traffickers.

One of Mo Farah’s fears was his legal position in the UK. He is a British citizen but his citizenship application was made in his false name and it is reported that he was concerned that he would be stripped of his citizenship. The British Nationality Act 1981 (‘the Act’) makes provision for the deprivation of citizenship. Under section 40 of the Act, deprivation is contemplated where it is found to be conducive to the public good, or where the citizenship in question was obtained through fraud, false representation or concealment of a material fact. However, the Home Office guidance on deprivation states that such provisions do not apply to children; they are not viewed as being complicit in any deception which occurred when they were minors. Furthermore, Mo Farah had nothing to gain from using his pseudonym in his citizenship application. His real name had been disclosed to the authorities, as had the manner in which he had been brought to the UK. Knowing this information, the adults responsible for his care made an application on his behalf in his assumed name.

Since making his revelation, the Home Office has confirmed that it will not be taking action against him. This has been seen by some as a good deed on the part of the Home Office or suggested that this is as a result of Mo Farah’s public profile, when in fact it simply reflects the current law on deprivation of citizenship. This case should not be seen as an exception, but rather as a reminder that children cannot consent to their own trafficking and that any former child victims of trafficking should not be criminalised or further victimised for the actions of their traffickers.

Legally, the government can remove a person's British nationality if their citizenship was obtained through fraud. But a Home Office official told BBC News it would not take action over Sir Mo's nationality, as it was assumed a child was not complicit when citizenship was gained by deception.


immigration, sport, citizenship