Two tier citizenship is not British – and nor is rendering people stateless

5946829399_e633991652_oToday the Commons votes on Lords amendments to the Immigration bill which would allow the Home Secretary to revoke the British passport of a foreign-born person if they are satisfied that deprivation of citizenship is ‘conducive to the public good because the person, while having that citizenship status, has conducted him or herself in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom.’ 

At present these powers cannot be used if it would leave the person stateless. This was reaffirmed in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Al-Jedda last year, which found against the Home Secretary and led to the current proposal. As the court noted, the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights addresses the “evil of statelesness” in Article 15(2), saying “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.” The court highlights the link between this and the Reich Citizenship Law dated 15 September 1935 which provided that all Jewish people should be stripped of their citizenship of the German Reich.

The court’s ruling, unanimously dismissing the appeal by the Secretary of State, stated that “it is clear that the question is simply whether the person holds another nationality at the date of the order depriving him of his British citizenship.” If that person does not hold another nationality, then to revoke his citizenship is to render them stateless, which is prohibited by law.

Clause 64 of the Immigration Bill is a direct response to this ruling. It received just 40 minutes debate in the Commons, having being introduced into the legislation late in the legislative process. Peers had voted to put Clause 64 into a committee, but the Government looks set to attempt to overturn this

As Jacob Ress-Mogg MP told the Spectator: “‘We would be creating a second class of citizenship. People who were born here can’t have their citizenship taken away. There is in my view a fundamental equality in British citizenship. You are either a British citizen or you are not. My concern is we could be creating two tiers for British citizenship.’

If someone is suspected of being involved in terrorism then they should be prosecuted, rather than being allowed to leave the country only for their passport to be revoked to prevent their return (and indeed in some cases to facilitate fatal military action against the individual.)  That is not justice. It is arbitrary decision making without check or balance. It goes against the fabric of a democratic society- as the US Supreme Court noted in 1958, depriving someone of their citizenship “is a form of punishment more primitive than torture, for it destroys for the individual the political existence that was centuries in the development.”

This power is not becoming of Britain and we urge MPs to uphold the Lords amendment.