Theresa May revokes Briton's citizenship while he's abroad
Categories: Latest News
Monday March 17 2014
The Independent reports on the Home Secretary’s decision to revoke the citizenship of a British man while he went on holiday to visit relatives in Afghanistan and his immediate family in Pakistan in January 2012. The revelation of the decision comes ahead of the House of Lords debate over Theresa May’s plan to amend the Immigration Bill to give her the power to strip Britons of their citizenship even if it renders them stateless (see The Guardian).
The man, who is referred to as E2 for legal reasons, is one of 27 people who have lost their British citizenship since 2006 under powers granted to the Home Secretary to revoke citizenship when considered to be “not conducive to the public good”. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has identified 17 cases of citizens whose citizenship has been revoked, of whom 15 were abroad at the time.
E2 was born in Afghanistan and still holds Afghan citizenship. In 1999, he claimed asylum in the UK and was granted indefinite leave to remain and in 2009 was naturalised as a British citizen. On 28 March 2012, E2 lost his UK citizenship while abroad after a letter signed by the Theresa May was sent by the UK Border Agency to E2’s London address. The letter was to notify him of the stripping of his citizenship on allegations to have been involved in ‘Islamist extremism’.
The Home Secretary has the power to revoke citizenship if “satisfied that deprivation would be conducive to the public good.” However, Section 40, clause 4 of the British Nationality Act 1981 prohibits revoking citizenship if it renders an individual “stateless”.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Ms May explained in the letter “My decision has been taken in part-reliance on information which, in my opinion, should not be made public in the interest of national security and because disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.”
E2 was unable to submit an appeal within the 28 days of the decision because he became aware of it when he was met by a British embassy official at Dubai airport on 25 May 2012, as he anticipated to return to the UK. After spending 18 hours in an airport cell, his British passport was confiscated and he was forced to fly back to Kabul.
E2 has launched an appeal at a tribunal Special Immigration Appeals Commission where cases related to national security are heard. The non-disclosure of information essential to why E2’s citizenship was revoked, on grounds of national security, are likely to make his appeal a difficult process.
Today, the House of Lords will be debating Government plans to amend the Immigration Bill in order to expand the Home Secretary’s powers to strip citizenship from British citizens even if it renders them stateless. The debate follows the Home Secretary’s move to deprive alleged terror suspect Hilal Al-Jedda of UK citizenship despite a Supreme Court ruling judging it illegal to strip him of citizenship if rendering him stateless is the end result.
The new clause was added at the final stage of the Immigration’s Bill passage through the Commons. It was overwhelmingly voted through with only 34 MPs in opposition.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, peers have listed a series of amendments, including a requirement for judicial approval in advance, and introducing an independent reviewer who can scrutinise how the powers are used.
In its legislative scrutiny report last month, the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights criticised the Government’s refusal to make available the information on “the number of cases in which the power to deprive of citizenship has been exercised while abroad, or of the number of cases in which the Secretary of State’s decision was taken wholly or partly in reliance on information which in the Secretary of State’s view should not be made public”.
The report concludes: “We would be very concerned if the Government’s main or sole purpose in taking this power is to exercise it in relation to naturalised British citizens while they are abroad, as it appears that this carries a very great risk of breaching the UK’s international obligations to the State who admitted the British citizen to its territory.
“We do not accept the Government’s argument that, generally speaking and in the absence of exceptional circumstances, a decision to deprive a naturalised citizen of their citizenship while they are physically in the territory of another State does not engage the individual’s Convention rights under Articles 2, 3 and 8 ECHR because they are outside the UK’s jurisdiction for ECHR purposes.”
The Guardian uses figures from the Office of National Statistics to demonstrate that May’s proposals would significantly expand the number of Britons vulnerable to citizenship stripping to approximately three or four million people.