A secret court declared the stripping of British citizenship to be unlawful in two cases on 15 November. The decision by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) was officially made public on 19 November and represents a rare glimmer of hope in citizenship-stripping cases.
Many people may not realise that the home secretary can strip a person of their citizenship, without them having been convicted of a crime, let alone being charged or tried. And this is a practice that is increasing in regularity with next to no opposition. The home secretary deprived the two men, known as E3 and N3, of their British citizenship in 2017. The appeals were heard by a secret court because of claims they involved matters of national security, although no evidence to substantiate the government’s claims has ever been provided to the two men or their lawyers.
Without charge or trial
According to a press release from Duncan Lewis solicitors, which represented the two men:
In June 2017, E3 was deprived of his citizenship after visiting Bangladesh to be present at the birth of his
daughter. In October 2017, N3 was deprived of his citizenship after leaving the UK to go to Turkey for business for a few weeks. Both men were deprived of their citizenship on national security grounds days before they were due to return to the UK. They suddenly found themselves stranded in foreign countries without any source of income or support.
The Canary spoke to Fahad Ansari, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who worked on the case.
Ansari told The Canary:
Neither man has ever been arrested, let alone charged or convicted, of a terrorism offence either in the UK or anywhere else in the world. If there was evidence against them, why were they not arrested or charged prior to leaving the UK only to be deprived of their citizenship prior to their scheduled return date? If they were believed to be involved in terrorism, why were they even permitted to leave the UK?
British by birth
Both men are British by birth and have Bangladeshi heritage. Bangladeshi law requires a person to formally apply to retain citizenship (that they hold by ancestry), by the age of 21, in order to keep their Bangladeshi citizenship. Bangladesh doesn’t permit its citizens to be dual citizens after 21 years of age. So SIAC ruled that as a matter of law, they only had one citizenship: British. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Nazi Germany infamously stripped Jewish and other people of their citizenship in order to deny them basic rights. For this reason citizenship has become known as ‘the right to have rights’. What is particularly disturbing is that SIAC could have decided this case differently, if these British born citizens had the right to Bangladeshi citizenship.
Abandoned and betrayed
Ansari told The Canary:
N3 has been separated from his three British children for over one year.
E3 was supporting his wife and child in Bangladesh through his employment in the UK. His salary did not meet the minimum income threshold (£18.600) to enable him to bring her to the UK as his spouse which is why he had to travel to visit her in Bangladesh. He was looking for the appropriate job that would meet the threshold. He specifically travelled to be present at his second daughter’s birth and assist his wife. It was on this visit that he was deprived of his citizenship. He suddenly found himself living in Bangladesh with his wife and two children, one a newborn, without any source of income or stable accommodation.
He has had to move house several times and has been unable to work or socialise for fear of attracting unnecessary attention to himself. He is very afraid of being detained by the Bangladeshi authorities and tortured based on shared intelligence with the UK authorities as frequently happens
Liberty and justice for some
This decision is a small glimmer of light in an otherwise dark process.
Ansari explained that:
The procedural difficulties with SIAC… is reflected in the very low Appellant success rate. The right to a fair trial includes the right to know the allegations and evidence against you.
In SIAC, neither you nor your instructed representatives are shown a large part of the evidence. How can that not violate fundamental principles of due process?
The Home Office has told The Canary that:
We intend to appeal this judgement. As such, it would not be appropriate to comment further.
Second class citizenship
Not everyone has been as lucky. Ryan Gallagher reported in the Intercept about how Bilal el-Berjawi was stripped of his citizenship, only to then be killed by a US missile strike. The UK government never even charged Berjawi with a crime.
Ansari lamented the double standard applied to non-‘White’ citizens:
There is a question of equal citizenship. The government could never contemplate depriving someone of their citizenship unless their ancestral heritage is foreign. This suggests a racial undertone in the implementation of the policy whereby all British citizens by birth are not considered equal.
Citizenship-stripping is a practice that should have died with Nazi Germany. Instead, we find that the modern day British government is destroying the lives of British citizens at the stroke of a pen. We must abolish this power and pay compensation to its victims if we ever want to live in a truly free society with the rule of law.
Featured image via Pixabay
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?