Young Hongkongers may not be given an automatic right to move to the UK and will need to prove they still live with their parents in order to do so.
More details of the British Home Office’s immigration plans to help grant rights to British National (Overseas) (BNO) citizens who live in Hong Kong so they can come to live and work in the UK were announced on Wednesday.
The news comes as the UK suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and slapped an arms embargo on the territory in response to China’s national security law.
But questions have remained about how the immigration measures can protect the rights of 18 to 23-year-olds, who are too young to have been able to register for BNO status like their parents.
The news is likely to spark concern among campaigners who have previously warned measures could exclude the youngsters – who are more likely to be the target of authorities as they have been most active in demonstrations.
Officials said the arrangements will prevent families being split up and allow BNOs to come to the UK with their spouses, children under the age of 18 and any adult children they have, as long as they are still a “family unit”. For example, if they still live with their parents or are dependants in some form.
The British Government may grant permission for other cases under exceptional circumstances – such as for elderly parents of BNOs who need care.
Last week, British Home Secretary Priti Patel sought to give assurances to MPs raising questions about the concerns over youngsters, saying that she was “actively looking at that particular age group and cohort” and considering a “number of options”.
On Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Today’s announcement shows the UK is keeping its word: we will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.”
Around three million people are thought to be eligible for BNO status and there are around 366,000 passports in circulation. Those born after 1997 are too young to have been able to register, but some will be too old to be considered a child under the UK immigration system.