LONDON: A British man stripped of his UK citizenship in 2017 has spoken of the turmoil the decision caused ahead of his return to the country after the move was overturned, claiming allegations made against him by the government were too secretive to make defending himself possible.
The 40-year-old man, known as E3, was born in London to Bangladeshi parents but was given a deprivation of citizenship order after he flew to Bangladesh, where he married his wife in 2013, for the birth of his second daughter.
The move left him stateless, as he did not take up the option of applying for Bangladeshi citizenship before turning 21, and meant he was unable to support his family; his wife did not qualify for British residency because, though employed in the UK, E3 did not earn enough to sponsor her.
The decision also meant that a third daughter, born in 2019 after E3’s citizenship was removed, was no longer eligible for British citizenship. His eldest two daughters are British citizens but remained in Bangladesh with their parents.
E3’s period of statelessness also made it difficult to visit and support his frail mother in London — to whose address his deprivation of citizenship order was delivered on June 3, 2017, the day before he was due to return to the UK.
The UK Home Office described E3 in the order as “an Islamist extremist who had previously sought to travel abroad to participate in terrorism-related activity,” claiming he posed a threat to national security.
His legal team, though, denies any evidence to support these claims was ever presented, adding he has never been charged with a criminal offense, either in the UK or abroad.
“The allegation against me is so vague that it even suggests that I only tried to travel to some unknown destination to take part in an unspecified activity related to terrorism,” E3 told the Observer newspaper. “How on Earth do you defend yourself against an allegation like that, especially when the government relies on secret evidence? The disclosure my solicitors received was almost entirely redacted so I have no idea what the government is referring to.
“Why was I not arrested and questioned? Why have I been punished in this way without ever being shown a single piece of evidence against me? The government should admit that they have made a mistake and own up to it,” he added.
E3’s return to the UK coincides with the proposal of controversial new legislation, the Nationality and Borders Bill, that could let the Home Office remove people’s citizenship without informing them.
“Being left stateless and not knowing why I was suddenly stripped of my citizenship had an extremely adverse impact on my mental health. It was the most depressing period of my life,” said E3.
“Being British is a fundamental part of my identity, but it really feels like you need more than just being born and raised in the UK to really be considered one. Having an ethnic background relegates you to being a second-class citizen.”
E3’s UK citizenship was restored after he successfully argued the decision had left him stateless — a move that could have ramifications for other British people stripped of or denied citizenship, including children born to British members of the extremist group Daesh currently living in refugee camps in Syria.
Anas Mustapha, communications manager of advocacy group Cage, said: “E3’s case brings into sharp focus the devastating impact of citizenship deprivation and its often forgotten victims, the children of those deprived.
“E3 has been successful in overturning the decision but many others must reckon with the state-imposed exile as it is impossible to meaningfully challenge it due to the use of secret evidence.”
E3 and his daughter’s cases, meanwhile, will be subject to judicial review later this year.
His lawyer, Fahad Ansari, said: “My client lost five years of his life because of the unlawful decision of the home secretary that lacked any prior judicial oversight.”