Looking at the law, it's clear that the Home Office decision to strip Shamima Begum of her citizenship is incorrect, argues Attiq Malik
What is Deprivation of British Citizenship?
Deprivation of British citizenship occurs when a person is stripped of his/her British nationality by the Secretary of State and Home department.
Who holds the power to deprive a person of British Citizenship?
The Home Secretary has the power to deprive a person of British citizenship in any of the following scenarios provided by section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981:
1 They consider that deprivation of citizenship is ‘conducive to the public good’, and would not make the person stateless (section 40 (2) and section 40(4));
2 The person obtained their citizenship through registration or naturalisation, and the Home Secretary is satisfied that this was obtained by fraud, false representation or the concealment of a material fact;
3 The person obtained their citizenship through naturalisation, and the Home Secretary ─ considers that deprivation is conducive to the public good because the person has conducted themselves ‘in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, any of the Islands, or any British overseas territory’; and ─ has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is able to become a national of another country or territory under its laws.
What are the implications of deprivation of British citizenship?
Deprivation of citizenship entails the loss of the right of abode in the UK. It makes possible the administrative (‘immigration’) detention, deportation and exclusion from the UK of the person concerned. Flowing from the loss of the right of abode are myriad associated and consequential rights, duties and opportunities.
The person would lose their right to vote, standing for election, jury service, military service, eligibility for appointment to the Civil Service and access to state benefits, state-financed healthcare and state-sponsored education.
What right does deprivation infringe with?
The deprivation of citizenship engages the rights enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights and it is in breach of the human rights of a person to make them stateless and deprive them of all the rights.
If a person is not in possession of dual nationality at the time of the deprivation of their current nationality, it would be unjust to deprive them of their only nationality which they obtained by birth.
Shamima Begum’s Case:
In this case, the Secretary of State applied the law incorrectly in establishing that making this decision is conducive to the public good and Miss Begum will not be stateless.
For the Home Secretary to make the decision that it is conducive to the public good, they would require evidence of her involvement in terrorism and whether she was convicted of the crime as alleged.
Miss Begum is a British Citizen and if she does not hold another nationality, she would potentially become a stateless person. It is unlawful to deprive a person of their citizenship if this results in them becoming stateless.
Miss Begum’s parents are originally from Bangladesh; however, she has never visited Bangladesh and has never obtained any documentation which would suggest that she was a dual national. Bangladesh has made it clear that she is not a citizen and would not be welcome there.
The question arises would a white British person be deprived of their citizenship if he had committed the same offence?
The precedent set by this decision is necessarily racist, because it can only be applied against the children of immigrants and means that anyone with foreign heritage could potentially be stripped from their citizenship at the discretion of the Home Secretary, without trial and regardless if it will make them stateless.
The decision made by the Secretary of State raises a question of whether it was disproportionate and discriminatory as it disregards the fairness and safeguards of the Criminal Justice system which are available to achieve the objective of safeguarding national security.
Miss Begum should be brought to the UK to face a trial and sentencing if her actions are criminal rather than this draconian measure to deprive her of her nationality and exile her.
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