By Claire Gordon • 18 November 2021 • 21:57
A new rule change proposed by the Home Office could see people stripped of their British citizenship with no warning as the government makes a move to quietly slip in a new clause into the nationality and borders bill. Clause 9 – “Notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship” – exempts the government from having to give notice to a person before they remove British citizenship.
The clause states the government is free from the need to declare their intention if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or if the move is in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or otherwise in the public interest.
There are already many opposers to the ability of the government to remove British citizenship and they say that scrapping the requirement for notice is a move that pushes the Home Office closer to draconian. The vice-chair of the Institute of Race Relations, Frances Webber, said: “This amendment sends the message that certain citizens, despite being born and brought up in the UK and having no other home, remain migrants in this country. Their citizenship, and therefore all their rights, are precarious and contingent.
“It builds on previous measures to strip British-born dual nationals (who are mostly from ethnic minorities) of citizenship and do it while they are abroad, measures mainly used against British Muslims. It unapologetically flouts international human rights obligations and basic norms of fairness.”
The Home Office originally introduced powers that could remove British citizenship after the 2005 London bombings, but under Theresa May’s tenure as home secretary, the usage increased. The requirement to give notice had already suffered a blow in 2018 as this change allowed the Home Office to make people aware only by putting a note onto their file. This could only be used when their whereabouts were unknown, however.
The new clause seems to be capable of applying lack of notice retroactively, raising concerns about the ability to appeal by those affected by this in the past. Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, said: “This clause would give Priti Patel unprecedented power to remove your citizenship in secret, without even having to tell you, and effectively deny you an appeal. Under this regime, a person accused of speeding would be afforded more rights than someone at risk of being deprived of their British nationality. This once again shows how little regard this government has for the rule of law. The US government has condemned citizenship-stripping as a dangerous denial of responsibility for your own nationals. Ministers should listen to our closest security ally rather than doubling down on this deeply misguided and morally abhorrent policy.”
The Home Office said: “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right. Deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm. The nationality and borders bill will amend the law so citizenship can be deprived where it is not practicable to give notice, for example if there is no way of communicating with the person.”
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