A secret court reverses the British government’s decision to make two men stateless

A judge's gavel in court
Mohamed Elmaazi

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:

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.

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.

And:

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 added:

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

Get involved

  • Read more about citizenship-stripping and its corrosive effect on the lives of people and the rule of law.
  • Write to your MP and demand they revoke the ability of the Home Office to strip citizenship from people at will.

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support