IHRC is urging the House of Lords to reject or at the very least overhaul the coalition government’s proposals to make it easier to strip British nationals of their citizenship.
Under the proposed amendments to The British Nationality Act 1981 contained in the Immigration Bill 2013-2014 to be debated in the Upper House tomorrow (1 April 2014) naturalised British citizens could be divested of their nationality WITHOUT being charged, tried or convicted.
The only tests the Home Secretary would have to apply is that the naturalised citizen has behaved in a manner seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK.
Currently the Home Secretary has the ability to deprive a person of their citizenship if they have obtained it through fraudulent means or where it is deemed to be ‘conducive to the public good, on the condition that the individual is not left stateless. Under the new proposals, the Home Secretary’s powers will be extended to allow deprivation of citizenship regardless of whether or not it will result in statelessness.
IHRC believes that the proposals to deprive citizenship are draconian, discriminatory and a clear violation of the UK’s international treaty obligations.
The unchecked power to strip UK nationals of citizenship on the determination of a member of the executive is a recipe for abuse.
Moreover vesting these powers in an individual betrays a lack of judicial scrutiny and due process. The only way to challenge a deprivation order is through an appeal once the person has had his citizenship revoked. But the way the Bill operates can make it difficult or impossible for appeals to be made.
The act requires the Home Secretary to serve notice of deprivation. However there is nothing in the act preventing an order being made whilst a person is out of the country. Out of 18 people deprived of citizenship since 2006, at least 15 were known to be abroad when orders were issued. In one instance the Home Secretary waited until the person had left the UK to issue an order. Being out of jurisdiction dramatically undermines the ability of people to appeal.
The plans would institute a two-tier policy for British-born and naturalised citizens fuelling a prevailing xenophobic discourse that conceives of all foreigners as second-class citizens.
IHRC has every reason to believe that any new laws will continue to be applied in a discriminatory manner to British Muslims. Most known cases of those already deprived of their British citizenship are not only non-white, but also Muslims, under the pretext of the war on terror.
If they become law the proposals would also represent a breach of Britain’s human rights obligations. In 1961, the UK was one of the founding parties to the UN Convention on Reduction of Statelessness and one of the first countries to ratify the treaty in 1966.
IHRC has recommended that the Lords reject the amendment in its entirety. Failing that, any deprivation order should be narrowly defined to cover serious crimes involving terrorism, espionage, serious organised crime and war crimes, for there to be a requirement that it be issued by a court and also that the subject of the order must be in the UK at the time that it is made.
IHRC chairman Massoud Shadjareh said: “The ability to deport without charge or trial and the stigma of statelessness are both evidence of a tyrannical streak in the policy making of this government. If accepted into law, it can only further stigmatise Muslims and people of colour who are residents and/or citizens of the UK.”
Notes to Editors:
IHRC’s briefing on the amendments to The British Nationality Act 1981in the Immigration Bill 2013-2014 can be read online at http://www.ihrc.org.uk/attachments/article/10983/IHRC%27S%20BRIEFING-ImAct-02.pdf
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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
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