Three hundred thousand. That’s how many people have signed a petition against a clause in the Nationality and Borders Bill, which, if made law, could give the government the power to remove someone’s citizenship with no prior warning.
In addition to the petition, thousands of people have protested on the streets against the citizenship removal clause in the Bill, which is currently making its way through the House of Lords.
The power of the UK government to remove citizenship is not new. The government can remove citizenship from someone “for the public good” if it doesn’t make them stateless, if the person obtained their citizenship through fraud, or if the person’s actions could harm the UK’s interests and the person could claim citizenship elsewhere.
The Case of Shamima Begum
The most well-known recent case is that of Shamima Begum. Born in Britain, Begum travelled to Syria when she was just 15 to join the Islamic State. In 2019, after she was found pregnant in a refugee camp, she tried to return home to the UK; the British government revoked her citizenship on security grounds, saying her ancestral home of Bangladesh could take her in.
But Begum is not a citizen of Bangladesh and doesn’t hold dual nationality, and has been left stateless, something which is not allowed under international law.
The government has stripped other people of their citizenship before, and the Nationality and Borders Bill could see this happen to more British citizens, all without giving them any advance notice. The government says: “The Bill allows for the Home Office to deprive someone of their citizenship without prior notification but only in exceptional circumstances.” But many minority groups fear they could become second-class citizens if the Bill is passed with this clause intact, punished in a different way to white counterparts for the same crimes, for example.