The case for changing our laws on revoking citizenship

UK passportWhen as Home Secretary Sajid Javid attempted to strip British-born Shamima Begum of her citizenship, he highlighted how the Home Office has come to possess powers to revoke citizenship that did not exist a generation earlier. These new powers are nothing short of racist, allowing the Home Secretary to strip Brits of citizenship by dint of their ancestry. According to Javid’s interpretation of the new laws, so long as a person can claim citizenship elsewhere – such as by having foreign ancestry in Shamima Begum’s case, or by virtue of laws such as Israel’s and Ireland’s allowing Jewish and Northern Irish people, respectively, to claim citizenship – the Home Office has the power to take their citizenship. It would not, in Javid’s interpretation, have the ability to take the citizenship of ‘indigenous’ English, Scottish or Welsh people.

The racist implications of Javid’s actions are what prompted a group of diaspora South Asian Lib Dems (most notably Nasser Butt, Marisha Ray, Mohsin Khan, Hussain Khan, Maaria Siddiqi and me) to work in partnership with Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Ed Davey and adviser Jonathan Jones to come up with Federal Conference Motion F34: Deprivation of Citizenship. At the very least, we aim to completely end the Home Office’s power to revoke the citizenship of anyone born British.

We would hope that our party can effect even more ambitious change in Parliament: four of us acquired British citizenship after birth, while one of us is an American aspiring to become British. We would therefore want the Conservative and Labour parties to agree to ending the Home Secretary’s powers to revoke the citizenship of those who acquire citizenship after birth, other than for the reasons that have existed since at least 1948, ie. fraud and misrepresentation in acquiring the citizenship.

In the event that the two parties which introduced the new laws awarding the Home Secretary his powers to revoke citizenship beyond fraud and misrepresentation take a hard-line against this, our policy motion proposes to enable our Lib Dem parliamentarians to agree to a less perfect solution.

First, it disallows the racist implementation of the law that Javid attempted.

Second, in the case of people who acquired their citizenship after birth, it requires the Home Secretary to refer revocation of their citizenship to the judiciary. For the Home Secretary to be successful, the Home Office has to show that a. the person has done something seriously prejudicial to the security interests of the UK, b. deprivation of citizenship is a proportionate response, c. deprivation would not make the person stateless and d. the interests of any child affected are taken into account.

We urgently need support for motion F34 on Tuesday, 17th September, 2019 at 9:45am at conference in Bournemouth.

We know of no cases of revocation prior to 2002. Since then, particularly under Tory Home Secretaries, instances of revocation have ballooned. Revocation happened 21 times between 2006 and 2012, 74 times between 2013 and 2016, then 104 times in 2017. Who knows what havoc Priti Patel could wreak unless we curb her office’s powers?

The laws the group studied were the British Nationality Act 1948, British Nationality Act 1981, Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, and Immigration Act 2014.

Our motion can be found here.

* Imad blogs at imadahmed.com. He is a member of Camden Lib Dems, Lib Dems in International Development, Liberal International and advises three Lib Dem spokespeople.

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