(London, UK) A government amendment to the Immigration Bill designed to remove the citizenship of naturalised Britons deemed to be ‘seriously prejudicial’ to the UK’s national interests was defeated in the House of Lords by 242 votes to 180. Lord Pannick, the cross bench peer who led opposition to the proposed power, said: ‘There are regrettably all too many dictators around the world willing to use the creation of statelessness as a weapon against opponents.’
Though this defeat may well be seen as a victory for human rights, this is far from the truth; citizenship deprivation is a power that can still be used at the whim of the British government.
The coalition has exercised this power 37 of the 42 times it has been used since 9-11, far outdoing even the previous Labour government – a key partner in the War on Terror. Those targeted in this way have also been overwhelmingly Muslim, with only one, Russian Anna Chapman, known to have not been a Muslim.
Citizenship revocations take place behind a veil of secrecy with the home secretary able to wield this power with no parliamentary or judicial oversight. With the individual often abroad and unable to re-enter the UK when their citizenship is revoked, challenging such decisions are nigh on impossible.
CAGE’s investigations have revealed that citizenship deprivation opens the door for a succession of human rights abuses to take place, including: extrajudicial killing; extraordinary rendition; arbitrary detention; and torture. The case of Mahdi Hashi who was stripped of his British citizenship back in 2011 best illustrates this. He was secretly rendered to America from Djibouti and then placed under Special Administrative Measures in conditions which are – according to UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez and 20 leading human rights organisations – tantamount to torture.
Commenting on the proposed amendment, Mohammed Hashi, father of Mahdi Hashi, said:
‘They are treating people, especially Muslims, like animals in a farm waiting to be slaughtered. Even if they are only suspicious of you, they will take your citizenship away from you. This will be a disaster. If it is as simple as that to make people stateless, why do they accept asylum seekers in the first place and claim to be humanitarians?’
Saghir Hussain, human rights lawyer, said:
‘There is compelling evidence that the implementation of this clause by the Government is an attempt to circumvent previous allegations of complicity in torture and rendition.
‘Following the removal of their citizenship, Mohamed Sakr and Bilal el-Berjawi were unlawfully killed by the US. Similarly, Mahdi Hashi was kidnapped and rendered to the USA shortly after the removal of his citizenship. A mere unproven suspicion can lead to a UK citizen losing not only their Passport but also their life.
‘This is an alarming new development which the Government is seeking to entrench. The heightened state of Islamophobia in the UK is being used to propel this otherwise objectionable measure through parliament.’
1. CAGE (formerly known as CagePrisoners) is an independent advocacy group that works to empower communities affected by the War on Terror and to highlight abuses of prisoners’ rights.
Contact: Mr Amandla Thomas Johnson
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(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)