Citizenship stripping doesn't just concern criminalsby Ismail Einashe / April 12, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Should all immigrants learn English?
The Home Secretary Theresa May has said many times that British citizenship is a “privilege, not a right.” Under the British Nationality Act, she has the power to strip dual nationals and naturalised people of their citizenship if she believes it is “conducive to the public good.” The last Labour government stripped five people of their citizenship over a period of seven years. Since taking up her position in 2010, May has removed the citizenship of 37 people, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Not all of these cases have been identified, but many of them are thought to be Britons who have gone to Syria to take part in the civil war.
Now, following the Rotherham child abuse scandal, citizenship stripping may be expanding to new areas. The Home Office is considering removing the British passports of those convicted sex abusers who are dual nationals, and deporting them upon their release from prison. Unsurprisingly, there will be little public sympathy if such criminals have their passports revoked, or for terrorists either.
Yet it is a mistake to imagine this is a useful response to terrorism and organised crime. In reality, it will erode the rights of millions of law-abiding people. The government has the power to revoke citizenship with little oversight and virtually no public scrutiny. The Home Secretary can strip the citizenship of dual nationals or naturalised Britons without giving a reason, needing the approval of a court, or requiring that an individual be convicted of a crime. There is a right to appeal. But the Home Office usually waits until individuals are outside the UK to deprive them of their citizenship, and challenging a decision from abroad is extremely difficult.
Take the case of Mahdi Hashi, a Somali-born young man whom I grew up with in Camden. He had taken British citizenship as a teenager, but it was revoked in 2012 after he travelled…