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Child's birth in Belfast 'part of residency plan'

A PREGNANT Chinese woman moved to Belfast so her child could have Irish citizenship, a court was told yesterday.

Man Levette Chen then planned to move to Britain, it was alleged.

She was aware that giving birth in the UK would not give her new baby automatic residency rights because of the terms of the British Nationality Act. However she knew that choosing Northern Ireland guaranteed the baby Irish nationality, granted to anyone born anywhere on the island of Ireland.

Once that was achieved, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg was told, Mrs Chen's plan was to take her Irish daughter to live in Britain under EU rules which allow nationals of one member state the right to settle in another.

The plan was hatched because Mrs Chen and her businessman husband already had a son, and could not have another in their own country under China's "one-child" rule.

So when she was six months pregnant with her second baby in mid-2000, she moved to Belfast and gave birth to Catherine.

The child did, as anticipated, legitimately receive an Irish passport - but the UK authorities unexpectedly challenged the right of either mother or daughter to live in the UK.

For the moment Mrs Chen and Catherine live in Cardiff, pending the outcome of the European legal wrangle. It is believed her husband and son are still in China.

Court papers stated: "It is accepted by all parties that Mrs Chen chose to go to Belfast so that Catherine would have an Irish passport, thereby raising a possible claim, under EU law, for Mrs Chen to remain in the UK." The UK government refused UK residency permits on the basis that as Catherine was only eight-months-old at the time, she could not exercise any EU rights and because the law only allowed "dependent relatives" to join their family. Mrs Chen was far from dependent on her baby, they said. The Chens are fighting the case at an immigration tribunal appeal, which has passed the case to the European Court because the family claims the government is breaching EU rules.

British government lawyers told the judges the UK was entitled to act to stop individuals improperly taking advantage of the EU law.

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