'It completely undermines a principle of rule of law, which is that an individual has a right to know of a decision before their rights are affected'
The home secretary’s bill to strip British nationals of their citizenship without any warning whatsoever, whenever she deems it necessary, is something that should worry us all.
It not only completely undermines a principle of rule of law, which is that an individual has a right to know of a decision before their rights are affected, but it also establishes a two-tier system of British citizenship, sending a clear message to the children of immigrants that so many of us are only British when the Home Office says so.
Naturalised citizens can be stripped of their British nationality if the government has “reasonable grounds” for believing they could acquire citizenship of another country.
Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which has been quietly added on, would exempt the government from having to give notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or otherwise in the public interest.
The powers contained within it are incredibly broad. The home secretary can revoke British citizenship when it would be “conducive to the public good”. The new provision could also be applied retrospectively to people deprived of citizenship before it became law.
Human rights groups have called the measures draconian and dangerous, which is exactly what they are. The law will particularly affect those from ethnic minority backgrounds and Muslims, who can be deprived of their citizenship simply because of their dual nationality, even if they have lived in Britain their whole lives and have never visited any other country.
There will undoubtedly be those who think that this is just scaremongering and if you don’t break the law then you have nothing to worry about. Yet this completely overlooks how the law further entrenches a two-tier system of citizenship, which undermines the social cohesion so many politicians claim to value.
While some may claim that citizenship deprivation will only be used for the most severe crimes, once such a broad precedent is established, it could also be used for less serious crimes.
If the removal of citizenship is not a consistent policy that is applied to all, but disproportionately to the children of immigrants, given that it will be applied to those who can acquire citizenship of another country, then it undermines the very basis of a democratic society, that we are all equal citizens.
At its heart, citizenship deprivation takes the rhetoric of ‘go back to where you came from’ – which I was used to hearing from EDL thugs on the streets of Luton – and gives it the full force of the state.
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward