Five United Nations special rapporteurs have said that the government’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill increases the risk of discrimination and serious human rights violations and seriously undermines the country’s obligations under international law.
The government says the bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Lords, targets terrorists, war criminals and spies.
Under the bill, if the British government wants to remove someone’s citizenship it will no longer need to tell them.
Home Secretary Priti Patel says the law would be used in “exceptional circumstances” on people who pose the most risk to the UK.
But the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Siobhán Mullally, said: “If adopted, the Nationality and Borders Bill would seriously undermine the protection of the human rights of trafficked persons, including children; increase risks of exploitation faced by all migrants and asylum seekers; and lead to serious human rights violations…
“The bill fails to acknowledge the Government’s obligation to ensure protection for migrant and asylum-seeking children, and greatly increases risks of statelessness, in violation of international law.”
According to UN experts, seeking and enjoying asylum is a fundamental human right.
“If passed, it could penalise asylum-seekers and refugees, violating the principle of non-punishment in international law and discriminating between categories of asylum seekers, which is contrary to international law,” Siobhán Mullally said.
The experts said the bill does not respect the UK’s obligations under international human rights and refugee law, but instead dismantles a core protection of democratic societies and pushes vulnerable people into dangerous situations.
The experts also highlighted the specific risks faced by migrant and refugee women. Under this bill, they said, women that have experienced gender-based violence can be turned away from the UK rather than be allowed to seek and find safety.
“The Government’s repeated public statements on combating trafficking and modern slavery must be matched by concrete action to ensure equal protection of the law for all victims of trafficking and modern slavery, without discrimination,” the experts said.
“We are alarmed that the bill will increase the possibility of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship – which has a troubled history rooted in racism and discrimination – and increase the risk of statelessness. The bill instrumentalises national security concerns, increasing risks of discrimination and of serious human rights violations, in particular against minorities, migrants and refugees. We urge the Government to reverse these proposed measures.”
The UN experts who raised the alarm include Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, and Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women.
Earlier this month an open letter, organised by CAGE and Media Diversified, and endorsed by a broad coalition of experts, civil society and community organisations and leading actors, condemned the Nationality and Borders Bill as an “Islamophobic” and “overtly racist” piece of legislation.
The Nationality and Borders Bill is currently at the committee stage in the House of Lords. It has already been approved by MPs.