Published: 02:40 PM, 23 February 2022
|| Barrister Masud Chowdhury ||
Anew draft clause has recently been added to the government’s proposed Nationalityand Borders Bill, which the UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is currentlysteering in the Houses of Parliament. The Bill has been passed in the House ofCommons and is currently being scrutinised line by line at the House of Lords.
Thenew draft Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill puts forward the conceptof completely stripping an individual’s British citizenship without anynotification whatsoever, if the local authorities do not hold an account of theindividual’s full contact details. It appears to be, at face value, a formalextension of the rights exercised by the then-Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, whostripped Shamima Begum – a schoolgirl widely known for fleeing the UK to joinISIS in 2015 – of her British citizenship in 2019. The stripping of ShamimaBegum’s citizenship was unprecedented at the time, but appeared to validate thesetting of a new precedent in order to allow the British government tolegitimately repeat such acts based on a new legal framework. Hence, thedecision to push through the new Nationality and Borders Bill.
Thereis no doubt that it is extremely difficult to ignore the prejudiced basis underwhich this proposed law is being promoted. People will no longer be notified if, why andwhen their British citizenship is stripped by the British government; meaningthat, in turn, their identity and sense of belonging is no longer as concreteas it may have been. The very principle behind the rule of law which forms thebasis of law and order in this country, is to allow every individual the rightof knowing why and how an adverse decision is made against them, and to give theman opportunity to appeal any unfair decisions. Though the Nationality andBorders Bill is yet to be officially approved by both Houses of Parliament, theobvious question it raises is one of unfairness: how can a person challenge adecision that they have no awareness of? An appeal can theoretically be lodgedand is provided for in the draft Bill, but the overall effect of the Bill doesnot practically encourage this process. For example, if one is stripped oftheir citizenship and deported, the logistical ability to lodge an appeal ismade all the more difficult by not being in the country, let alone having scantdetails as to why their citizenship was revoked in the first place.
Thereis also no doubt that the Bill aims to, at its heart, target the Black, Asianand Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities who are British citizens by birth or whohave acquired British citizenship. For instance, under international law - andspecifically, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights - everyone has theright to a nationality. Therefore, people cannot arbitrarily be left stateless.This would be the absolute case for white Caucasian British citizens who canonly trace their ancestry back to the UK. On the other hand, stripping thecitizenship of those from a BAME background is likelier to occur, as the HomeOffice has already acknowledged and reasoned that stripping the citizenship ofthose who have dual nationality or who can possibly get citizenship somewhereelse, such as the country their parents come from, is possible under the Bill.The result of the Bill is therefore to implicitly create a second class of BAMEBritish citizens, who almost certainly know that the government has the meansto impact them under the Bill unlike their Caucasian British counterparts.Citizenship and equality are therefore no longer sacred, with one class ofBritish citizens facing unfair treatment as against those who may be indigenousto the UK. To suggest that the British government can deport individuals to countriesthey have no familiarity with – simply by reason of their ancestry – isredolent of racism.
Inaddition, we cannot forget the silent victims should the Bill be passed – theunderage children of individuals who have their British citizenship revoked atthe time of their children’s birth. It is true that stateless children residing and remaining inthe UK can register for British citizenship if they have always been stateless,have been residing in the UK for at least five years, and are under 22 years ofage. However, it is appalling that they can no longer automatically obtainBritish citizenship by virtue of their birth to British citizens, as providedfor in the British Nationality Act 1981, because this proposed Bill canthreaten anyone’s citizenship at any time. This therefore means that we canexpect an increase in statelessness amongst the British BAME community andtheir children.
TheUK government, with Priti Patel as its spearhead, has turned a legitimate issueof security into a tool to attack the British BAME community. The Bill makes itvery easy for the British government to remove asylum seekers, change its mindon whom they wish to award British citizenship to, and whom they can take citizenshipaway from – all without having to justify such decisions or notify thoseaffected by the decisions. It is now up to the local communities of the UK – inour case, the Bengali community – to take as much action as we can on a grassroots level to ensure that there is enough awareness to lobby against the Bill.We must fight for equality and fairness and for the upholding of the rule oflaw; and in order to do so, we must rally all those who are in a position ofhelp. Therefore, please contact your MP, your local councillors, attend ralliesand marches, and speak up online and in-person against the proposed Bill andthe injustice it aims to implement in our modern day society. The Nationalityand Borders Bill has no place in a modern day society made up of people peacefullycoexisting from a multicultural background.