February 17, 2022Featured Article Counter-Terrorism Citizenship
(London, 17 February 2022) – Top UN human rights experts, including specialised experts on racism and human trafficking, told the UK government last night that its citizenship-stripping practices and attempts to expand its powers potentially break international law, Rights & Security International (RSI) said today. RSI had written to the experts to draw their attention to the UK’s broad, vague, and subjective citizenship-stripping powers and plans under Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill to let the Home Secretary take people’s British citizenship away without telling them.
‘Citizenship-stripping is a life-altering event with a profound impact on people’s human rights,’ said Emily Ramsden, Senior Officer in Migration and Citizenship at RSI. ‘In some cases, the UK government has left people they’ve stripped of citizenship stateless, exposing them to serious deprivation and danger; in others, it has torn apart families and abandoned people in torturous conditions.’
Last night, five UN experts published a letter addressed to the UK government which raises concerns about the UK’s existing broad powers to strip people of their British citizenship, including on national security grounds, and the government’s proposals to expand these powers through Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill.
The UN experts raised concerns about the Home Secretary’s ‘broad, vague, and subjective discretion’ to determine when to strip people of their British citizenship, which they said lacked transparency and predictability. The experts also expressed specific concerns that citizenship stripping could disproportionately impact British Muslims and people from migrant communities, especially people of colour.
In December, a statistical analysis by the New Statesman of data released by the Office for National Statistics found that 41 percent of people belonging to Black, Asian and other non-white groups are at risk of being deprived of their citizenship under the UK’s current laws and policies, compared to only five percent of people the government classifies as white.
The UN experts also raised concerns about Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which would dispense with the requirement that the Home Office must inform people that it intends to take their British citizenship away. The experts said that this would make it more difficult for people – including potential victims of trafficking – to challenge these decisions in court.
Last week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Trafficked Britons in Syria, a cross-party group of MPs and peers, published the results of its inquiry into British nationals, including children, who may have been trafficked by the Islamic State to and within Syria and Iraq. The report found that, rather than taking steps to protect and support potential victims of trafficking, the UK government has stripped them of citizenship on what appears to be a blanket basis. RSI had submitted expert evidence to the APPG’s inquiry, raising concerns about citizenship stripping.
‘The Government must remove Clause 9 from the Nationality and Borders Bill and stop stripping people of citizenship without due process,’ concluded Ramsden. ‘No one should be stripped of their right to have human rights under vague laws that could allow decisions based on racism, Islamophobia, or other discriminatory stereotypes – and potential victims of trafficking should be helped, not punished.”
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