The UK Government could have the power to strip people of their British citizenship without warning if a new clause added to the nationality and borders bill is passed.
The bill is currently proceeding through the House of Commons and the rule change has been sponsored by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Civil liberties groups say removing citizenship is already a very controversial power and scrapping the requirement to notify, allowing the Home Secretary to remove citizenship secretly, would make the measure excessively severe and harsh.
Frances Webber, the vice-chair of the Institute of Race Relations, told the Guardian: “This amendment sends the message that certain citizens, despite being born and brought up in the UK and having no other home, remain migrants in this country. Their citizenship, and therefore all their rights, are precarious and contingent.
“It builds on previous measures to strip British-born dual nationals (who are mostly from ethnic minorities) of citizenship and to do it while they are abroad, measures used mainly against British Muslims. It unapologetically flouts international human rights obligations and basic norms of fairness.”
Clause 9 – “Notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship” – of the bill, excuses the government from a requirement to give notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of diplomatic relations, national security, or otherwise in the public interest.
The powers were first introduced in 2005 after the London bombings, and were extended during Theresa May’s tenure as home secretary from 2010, which was characterised by a tough approach towards migrant communities.
The proposed rule change would eliminate the need for notification altogether in a variety of circumstances. The government has previously weakened the requirement to give notice in 2018, but only in cases where the citizens were unknown, allowing the Home Office to notify by placing a copy of it on an individual’s file.
The Home Office said in statement: “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right. Deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm.
“The nationality and borders bill will amend the law so citizenship can be deprived where it is not practicable to give notice, for example if there is no way of communicating with the person.”