Individuals’ British citizenship might be revoked without notice under a proposed rule change secretly included into the nationality and borders bill.
Under the clause 9 of the law, titled “Notice of Decision to Deprive a Person of Citizenship,” exempts the government from providing notice if it is not “reasonably possible” to do so, or if it is in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations, or other public interests.
Critics argue that stripping citizenship, like in the instance of Shamima Begum, who left Britain as a youngster to join Islamic State in Syria, is already a problematic prerogative, and that eliminating the obligation for notice will amplify the home secretary’s powers.
In the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings, Home Office powers to deport British people were established, but their usage escalated throughout Theresa May’s stint as home secretary from 2010 onwards, and they were expanded in 2014.
In 2018, the obligation to provide notice was eased, enabling the Home Office to serve notice by placing a copy on a person’s file – but only in circumstances when their whereabouts were unknown.
In a variety of situations, the new provision would eliminate the obligation for notice entirely. It also seems to be potential of being applied retroactively to circumstances where a person’s citizenship was taken away without warning before the provision was enacted, raising concerns about their capacity to appeal.
Additional proposed modifications in the bill have already drawn criticism, such as making claims from people who enter the UK via an illegal route inadmissible whilst also criminalising them and anyone who tries to save their lives, and providing immunity to Border Force personnel if people die in the Channel during “pushback” processes.
Middle East Eye reported earlier this year on the situation of a British man who was allowed to return to the UK after being stuck overseas for four years after the government was determined to have incorrectly evaluated his eligibility for Bangladeshi citizenship.
Under the rule of international law, it is unlawful to remove someone’s citizenship if doing so would result in their being stateless, hence individuals targeted must be dual nationals or lawfully eligible to claim citizenship in another country.