A Carlisle woman has been told she has no claim to British citizenship - despite being born in the UK.

Irene Kaali has never left the country, but according to the law she is not entitled to citizenship unless she pays for it.

This means she is unable to get a passport and feels she is being denied her identity.

"I don’t know what it is like to visit family abroad, I never met my elderly grandparents before they passed, I don’t know what it’s like to book a spontaneous trip or feel the holiday sun," said Irene, 24, of Wigton Road.

"There is something they can do. It's not even that they won't accept that I'm British, they will but they want me to pay them for it first. It just seems unjust."

The British Nationality Act (1981) states that a child born in the UK on or after January 1, 1983, is a British citizen, if at the time of birth, either of his/her parents was a British citizen or settled in the UK.

Irene was born at St Luke’s hospital, Bradford, and at the time of her birth her parents were not on permanent visas. They came from Tanzania to study here in the late 1980s and it wasn't until after Irene was born that they became settled.

"I'm legally not British but legally I'm not considered African either. The legal term is stateless," said Irene, who moved to Carlisle to qualify as a teacher and now works for Capita.

"It doesn't make sense. I have done as well as I can; pursued education and done everything I can possibly do to become someone I'm proud of, and genuinely think the government would be proud of, and I can't be accepted.

"Yet there are criminals and all these people in the news with no issues whatsoever. It just seems ludicrous. I don't understand the logic behind this process of giving out citizenship."

She first realised she was stateless when she applied for a passport in 2012, while planning a trip with friends to celebrate their 18th birthdays.

Her whole life, when filling out forms, she has classed herself as black British because that's what she thought she was.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson contacted the passport office on Irene's behalf but nothing has changed.

In a letter to Mr Stevenson, a member of the UK Visas and Immigration department from the Home Office, explained: "As Ms Kaali was born on December 21, 1993, in order to have a claim to British citizenship one of her parents would need to have been settled or British at the time of her birth.

"Home Office records show that neither of Ms Kaali's parents were British citizens of settled in the UK at the time of her birth. Ms Kaali therefore has no claim to British citizenship."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Ms Kaali withdrew her passport application in 2012 as she did not have a claim to British citizenship.

“Being born in the UK does not necessarily mean you are a British citizen. People born after 1 January 1983 only have an automatic entitlement to British citizenship if, at the time of the birth, their father or mother was a British citizen or settled in the UK.

“Although Ms Kaali has no automatic claim to British citizenship, she may have a right to register as a British citizen. We are happy to discuss available options with her.”

Irene can claim British citizenship at a cost of £1,243 - the cost of the application and citizenship ceremony.

With encouragement from friends she set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money and she has been overwhelmed by the response.

"Sometimes thank you doesn't seem enough. It is an issue that has been going on so long, every time I see a donation I want to burst into tears. All I can really say is thank you," she said.

"So many people responded and so many people were shocked that this can happen to people."

Nick Butters said on Facebook: "This is ridiculous and shameful. I am appalled at the heartlessness of a governmental system which can treat one of its citizens - and yes, that is what you are by birth and by right - in such an arbitrarily cruel fashion.

"You are an asset to this country and to Cumbria in particular."

Irene now wants to raise awareness of the issue and challenge what the government considers British.

"I don't think anyone understands the term stateless. More people go through this than people are aware of and not enough is known about it," she said.

"I also think anything immigration-wise is such a sensitive subject. It's almost like dangerous territory.

"I'm in a really fortunate position that I have so many people behind me who donated that they have made it possible for me, but there are others out there who aren't as fortunate.

"When it comes to things like this everything is just so expensive I think people just give up really quickly.

"In a perfect world it would be great to get the law changed but I want to have a solution and I want to have an answer.

"I understand the reluctance to just hand out British citizenship, but I just think it needs to be more specific what is a British citizen."

To donate visit www.gofundme.com/my-journey-to-british-citizenship