Nationality and Borders Act Passes Parliament
Categories: Latest News
Friday May 06 2022
The Nationality and Borders Act, first introduced in July 2021 by Priti Patel, has passed parliament and is now set to be enacted as law. Following months of debates between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, peers have decided against a fourth attempted defeat of the Act despite their vehement opposition. They have previously contested that the provisions set out in the Act are both unworkable and incompatible with UK’s moral and legal obligations.
The current plan to process asylum claimers in Rwanda, brought in by the Nationality and Borders Act, has been widely criticised by human rights experts, saying that it “rips up internationally recognised rights for people fleeing war and persecution and will criminalise thousands of refugees”. The passing of the Act also means that the Home Secretary will have the authority to remove one’s citizenship without prior notice and make them stateless. Essentially, the Nationality and Borders Act threatens civil liberties by targeting migrants, ethnic minorities and anyone holding dual nationality.
The UK government already holds power to remove one’s British citizenship. The Immigration Act 2014 gives the Home Secretary unilateral power to deprive British citizens of their citizenship if they are; “satisfied that the deprivation is conducive to the public good” and they have “reasonable grounds for believing that the person is able, under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, to become a national of such a country or territory”. Under international law, it is illegal to render someone stateless. However, the legislation mentioned above is inherently political because it is a power held by the Home Secretary, who is ultimately a political representative of the current political party. The Home Secretary is not a judicial appointment, and in deploying this legislation, there is no formal trial or process to ascertain guilt. In other words, citizenship stripping can be done for political reasons, with no due process and with almost no public scrutiny. The consequences of losing citizenship are dire: a stateless person does not have access to the fundamental rights that citizens enjoy including but not limited to education, employment, healthcare, social welfare, freedom of movement, and political participation.
Indeed, the legal provisions of citizenship stripping can be described as medieval and hostile. A recent report revealed that the UK had stripped more people of their citizenship than any other country asides from Bahrain in the past decade. It is estimated that around 454 people have been stripped of their British citizenship in the last 15 years. Amongst them, 200 people had their citizenship removed on national security grounds. Inevitably, the Nationality and Borders Bill furthers citizenship stripping. It will quietly give power to the Home Secretary to remove British citizenship and effectively remove the ability to appeal against the Home Office. Consequently, even when it does not result in statelessness, citizenship stripping inevitably makes law-abiding immigrants and UK-born ethnic minorities feel uneasy and fearful.
Ultimately, citizenship stripping is form of institutional racism and Islamophobia due to the indirect discrimination inherent in it. United Nations (UN) human rights experts have told the UK government that its use of citizenship-stripping powers is likely discriminatory and unlawful because of its disproportionate impact on Muslim and migrant communities. As the Nationality and Border Act is on its way to receiving royal assent, six million people will be at risk of losing their citizenship, amongst which 26% are Muslim. The ability to deprive citizenship has created an inconsistent and discriminatory tiered system of punishment, which leads to the government stripping people who have a non-British heritage of their citizenship. Consequently, expanding its powers will pose a more significant threat to minorities living in the UK.
Ultimately, a government must ensure the safety and security of its citizens. However, rendering someone stateless will only result in the loss of fundamental human rights. Citizenship is not a privilege but a right in every legal sense. Therefore, MEND urges the government to cease the practice of biased and unjust citizenship stripping altogether.