Under a new draft clause added to the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which was proposed by Home Secretary Priti Patel, people in the United Kingdom could be stripped of their citizenship without warning.
Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, proposed in July and updated in November, exempts the government from giving notice of a decision to deprive a person of citizenship if authorities do not have the subject’s contact details or if it is not “reasonably practical” to do so.
The clause states that notice would also not be given if such a move is “in the public interest”.
However, the Home Office has said those deprived of citizenship will still have the right to appeal.
A precedent was set in 2019, after Shamima Begum, who was born in London, was stripped of her UK citizenship due to her connections with the ISIL (ISIS).
Sajid Javid, home secretary at the time, argued that although Begum did not have a foreign passport, she would not be stateless because of her Bangladeshi ancestry. However, Bangladesh, which she had never visited, said she had no claim to the South Asian nation.
Since 2006, the UK has had the power to strip dual nationals of their British citizenship.
The measures were introduced after the 2005 London bombings – four suicide bombings on July 7 that killed 52 people.
At that moment, British anti-terrorism laws changed, and collective security was trumped over protecting civil liberties and freedoms.
Under Tony Blair, then-prime minister, 12 counterterrorism measures were outlined, also including the expansion of the controversial Prevent programme, which was quietly created in 2003. This required public officials working in schools, universities, hospitals and local councils to report people they found to be showing “radical” tendencies to the authorities.
The ability to deny people citizenship was increased in 2010 by then-Home Secretary Theresa May, who used the powers to strip 20 dual-national Britons who were believed to be fighting in Syria.
In 2014, May took this further, extending the measures to foreign-born British citizens without dual nationality, as long as they were eligible for foreign citizenship and would not be left stateless.
But the new clause – which means people may not be notified of their stripped citizenship – can also be applied before it becomes law, making an appeals process harder.
A report by the New Statesman found that almost six million people from ethnic minority backgrounds could be affected by the proposed clause.
The bill also aims to rule as inadmissible asylum claims made by undocumented people as well as criminalise them and anyone taking part in refugee rescue missions in the English Channel.
Moreover, border force staff will be granted immunity if people die in the Channel during “pushback” operations, a matter of concern among immigration lawyers who say the bill breaches international and domestic law.
According to The Guardian, in response to the new clause, the Home Office has 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.”
The bill is currently going through the House of Commons and will progress to the House of Lords by next year.