British Nationality

Strong Concerns Over UK Nationality and Borders Bill

By Amer Zaman

on May 26, 2022

Read Time: 9 Minutes

Could the UK Government soon have powers to strip British citizenship without notice?

Even long before it has approached becoming law, it is fair to say the Nationality and Borders Bill – which, at the time of typing, has entered its final stages in the UK Parliament prior to receiving Royal Assent – has attracted plenty of comment, much of it far from complimentary.

Concern about the Bill was raised as long ago as November 2021, when it was reported that a proposed rule change had been quietly added to the legislation that would allow the Government to strip individuals of their British citizenship without warning.

Worries centred on the Bill’s ninth clause, “Notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship”, which would exempt the Government from having to give notice of removing someone’s British citizenship if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations, or otherwise in the public interest.

The removal of British citizenship has been a subject on many people’s lips in recent times as a consequence of the high-profile case of Shamima Begum, who in 2015, fled the UK aged 15 to join Islamic State in Syria.

The question many are asking is: would getting rid of the requirement for notice of stripping UK citizenship represent an overreach of the Home Secretary’s powers, especially given how contentious it already is that UK citizenship can be removed at all?

How our immigration lawyers can help

It can be a long and difficult process to achieve British citizenship. For many people, it stands as one of the proudest achievements of their lives. This is why it is so shocking that there is the possibility that for some people, it could be taken away without any notice or warning.

Here at Cranbrook Legal, we want to help as many people as possible achieve some version of a settled status, a successful visa, or the golden egg of the British citizenship. This is why the last thing we want to see is the people our immigration solicitors serve being forced to leave the UK.

If you intend to settle in the UK, it is important that you have a legal expert on your side to protect your rights. Indeed, concerns have even been raised as to whether the potential changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill would leave those stripped of their citizenship without appeal.

To seek out legal advice and guidance from immigration experts, please feel free to reach out to Cranbrook Legal today. We can offer you our expertise to help put your mind at rest or make you more aware of your options, including in relation to immigration appeals; simply call our law firm now, on 0208 215 0053.

British citizenship and notice

There have been many ups and downs in the history of British citizenship and notice periods. After the 2005 London bombings, the UK Home Office received powers to strip British nationals of their UK citizenship. These powers came to be used more frequently when Theresa May was Home Secretary from 2010, and they were broadened in 2014.

There had already been a dilution of the requirement to give notice in 2018, meaning that the Home Office could now serve notice simply by putting a copy of it on a person’s file; however, this only applied in cases where the individual’s whereabouts were unknown.

What is citizenship deprivation?

British citizenship is the primary class of British nationality, entitling the person with citizenship to live and work in the UK permanently, without being subject to any immigration restrictions.

Citizenship is ultimately a relationship between a state and the individual. The State allows for the individual to have certain rights when they are settled within a country. In return for these rights, the individual must abide by the rules and regulations set by the given country’s government.

In certain cases, this citizenship can be taken away, with the individual losing access to certain rights that citizens experience. The UK Government has said that the removal of British citizenship has been possible for more than a century, since the 1914 British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act.

The power is presently contained within the British Nationality Act 1981, section 40, and the Home Office says it can be used for one of two reasons: (a) where it is conducive to the public good due to the risk of extreme activities such as serious organised crime or acts of terrorism; and (b) on the grounds of the given person having obtained their citizenship fraudulently, and therefore never been entitled to citizenship in the first place.

The Government has said that there is always a right of appeal for those who have been stripped of their British citizenship, and that the Nationality and Borders Bill does not change any existing right of appeal.

Why are people upset about the controversial clause in the Nationality and Borders bill?

Right now, this addition to the Bill is already being compared to the situation surrounding the Windrush scandal, in which minorities were wrongly detained and threatened with deportation.

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy has claimed that the “clauses show what a dangerous bill this is” – and questions have been said as to whether the Bill may even represent a breach of international law. The inclusion of the contentious clause most certainly shows little regard for those people who have just achieved a settled status or citizenship.

The reason that campaigners are upset about this bill is due to the fact that it demonstrates the divide that is between people who were born in the UK and people who achieved settlement and citizenship over time. It creates a clear divide between those who have rights and others that may be at risk of having their rights stripped from them.

Some have argued that this rule change might also just be a knee-jerk reaction to the D4 case, where the individual was detained in Camp Roj while the Home Office was trying to take away her British citizenship. Either way, this addition to the bill is clearly a threat to freedom and human rights. In a way, it once again threatens to create a divide between those born to British citizenship and those who have had to work to achieve it over the years.

How does the Nationality and Borders Bill affect deprivation of citizenship?

The first thing that you need to understand about this Bill is that according to the Home Office, it can only deprive individuals of their citizenship in specific circumstances. This includes very extreme circumstances like terrorists, fraudsters, extremists and organised criminals.

The Home Office has said that the Bill does not widen the reasons for which a person could be deprived of their citizenship. In short, you can expect to only be affected by this Bill if you have been involved in serious crimes.

However, if the above does describe your situation, you may still understandably fear that your British citizenship could be revoked outside of your knowledge. If you are worried about this, please make sure to speak to your immigration lawyer about your concerns. They will be able to help put your mind at rest, as well as advise and assist you if the worst does come to the worst.

Safeguarding and fair trials

One of the main concerns that has come from this latest development is in relation to human rights. Many people believe that it demonstrates a regression in the UK’s international obligations. There are worries that specific groups of people will be targeted because of this lack of safeguarding, especially as it denies the right to a fair trial.

If an immigrant to the UK does not know that they have been stripped of their British citizenship, how will they be able to get the right help to get started on their appeal case? If the affected individual does not know that their citizenship has been revoked, there is the risk that the appeal will be brought to a tribunal too late.

Such misuse of power can arguably be already be seen through a number of cases, although the most famous is the Shamima Begum case.

Who is Shamima Begum and why is this case relevant?

Let’s start with a bit of context about this case. Shamima Begum was a schoolgirl when she went to Syria to join Islamic State. As a result, she was stripped of her British citizenship and is currently in a Syrian refugee camp.

Back in July 2020, the Court of Appeal claimed it was ultimately “unthinkable” that she was to continue her appeal from the refugee camp. Instead, the court wanted Begum to continue her British citizenship trial in the UK. That way, she could actively participate in it. However, the Supreme Court said that the Government could block her return.

From the outside view, in this kind of highly contentious and divisive case, it may seem that there is a lower chance of a fair and well-safeguarded trial. Trials held in circumstances like these could put defendants at a great disadvantage, and public trust may be eroded if there is a belief that defendants in these cases cannot always expect a fair trial.

By stripping an individual of their citizenship, the UK Government is essentially making them stateless, or the “problem” of a different country. The reason why this case is relevant nowadays is because it appears to tie into a very similar issue that happens time and time again. The powers of the UK Government are large and can have dire consequences for those who are vulnerable.

Not only that, but it even looks like governmental powers have created a system that is inconsistent and discriminatory in terms of punishing people who have a non-British heritage. This is something that immigration lawyers must be aware of if their clients are at risk of being either deported or deprived of their citizenship.

Can the Government take away your citizenship?

In light of this bill, it is important not to catastrophise the idea that your rights or British citizenship are going to be taken away. If you have gone through the appropriate visa channels or have come to the UK under the EU settlement agreement, it is more than likely that you are going to be allowed to remain in the country. It is only if you are involved in some kind of criminal activity, extremism or terrorism that it is likely your citizenship will be revoked.

The basic moral is that if you keep out of trouble, the higher your chance will be that you will be able to retain your British citizenship. If you are concerned that your citizenship is in jeopardy, you will need to speak to your immigration lawyer as quickly as possible. They can let you know what has been happening and whether or not you will need to file an appeal. Don’t leave it too late, or else you may find it difficult to get a tribunal to look over your application.

Cranbrook Legal is ready to help you retain your British citizenship

If you are living in the UK under a pre-settlement or settlement agreement, it can be hard not to worry about these sorts of issues that arrive from the latest government policy changes.

But try not to worry too much. If you are working with Cranbrook Legal on your case, you will always be told what has been happening with your visa and/or current settlement status. Our immigration specialists will be here to answer all of your questions and make sure you feel comfortable with the immigration process.

Speak to an immigration specialist at Cranbrook Legal today by calling 0208 215 0053, emailing or by using our contact form. We look forward to helping you with your case soon!

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