Since 2006, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom has stripped 53 dual nationals of their British citizenship, including 48 under the Coalition government, and 20 cases in 2013 alone, Patrick Galey and Alice K. Ross report for the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Galey and Ross write, “The Home Secretary can use powers in the British Nationality Act to remove the citizenship of an individual if she believes their presence in the UK is ‘not conducive to the public good’, or if they have acquired their citizenship by fraud.”
Cases based on alleged threats to national security often involve evidence that is considered secret, and kept from both the affected person and their lawyers, leading one prominent immigration lawyer to describe the process as “akin to medieval exile.” National security and counter-terrorism were the grounds given by the Home Secretary in at least 28 of the 53 cases in which the British National Security Act was invoked to strip citizens of their citizenship, Galey and Ross report.
Changes to the UK’s Immigration Bill are likely to increase the number of such cases. In May 2014, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, sought revisions to strip naturalized British citizens of their citizenship even if doing so would make the person stateless, which the House of Commons approved, Ross reported in an earlier article. Before the new clause was added to the bill, the Home Secretary could only remove an individual’s citizenship if doing so would not make that person stateless. This limited the power to being used only against dual nationality citizens. Under the revisions, the Home Secretary can revoke a naturalized citizen’s citizenship, “even if they have no alternative nationality to fall back on,” Ross writes. In short, it is now easier than ever before for the Home Secretary to rid the UK of “undesirables” without discretion.
In September 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron proposed new discretionary powers to allow the government to “exclude British terror suspects from the UK,” Parsons reports. The proposal would target Britons who traveled to Iraq or Syria to aid the Islamic State or other militant groups. In a separate article, Parsons reports that Prime Minister Cameron also seeks the authority to revoke the passports of Britons who travel abroad to fight with extremist groups.
The issue of UK citizens being stripped of their nationality has not been well covered, especially in major US news outlets. For example, since 2003 the New York Times has published only three stories on the topic, while the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and USA Today have published just one story each, for a total of just six stories over the course of eleven years in major US newspapers. Instead, significant coverage of this issue comes from the independent sources, such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which maintains an ongoing series of reports under the title, “Citizenship Revoked.”
Patrick Galey and Alice K. Ross, “Citizenship Revoked—Interactive: The 53 Britons Stripped of Their Nationality,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, June 3, 2014, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/06/03/interactive-the-53-britons-stripped-of-their-nationality/.
Alice K. Ross, “House of Lords Votes in Favour of Government Plans to Make Terror Suspects Stateless,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, May 13, 2014, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/05/13/house-of-lords-votes-in-favour-of-government-plans-to-make-terror-suspects-stateless/.
Victoria Parsons, “Coalition to Propose New Powers to Stop Citizens Returning to UK,” September 1, 2014, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/09/01/coalition-prepares-new-law-to-strip-citizens-of-their-passports/.
Victoria Parsons, “Cameron Poised to Unveil Powers Making It ‘Easier to Take People’s Passports Away,’” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, September 1, 2014, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/09/01/cameron-poised-to-unveil-powers-making-it-easier-to-take-peoples-passports-away/.
Student Researcher: Errol Francis II (Pomona College)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Pomona College)