LONDON: The UK government has suffered a defeat in the House of Lords as it tried to push through widespread changes to the country’s immigration and asylum laws.
Among the raft of changes proposed by the Nationality and Borders Bill, one of the most controversial has been a loosening of rules surrounding how and when ministers can strip Brits of their citizenship.
On Monday, crossbench peer Baroness D’Souza, who argued this would be “unjust,” submitted an amendment that was passed by a majority of 44 votes.
Having been subject to the Lords’ scrutiny and amendments, the bill will now return to the House of Commons for approval by MPs.
The bill does not become law until both the Commons and the Lords approve of the wording, and while the House of Lords cannot outright veto a bill, members do have the ability to amend the law repeatedly, thus passing it back to the Commons once again.
London has been able to revoke people’s UK citizenship for more than a century if they pose a threat to national security or where this is deemed to be in “the public interest,” and the home secretary — currently Priti Patel — decides each case.
But the issue has become increasingly controversial in recent times, following high-profile cases of citizenship deprival related to Daesh recruits.
Perhaps the most prominent was the case of Shamima Begum, a Daesh recruit whose citizenship was stripped, effectively trapping her in Syria, as Bangladesh, the country to which London argued she was entitled citizenship, publicly rebuked the idea.
It is illegal under international law to strip someone of their citizenship if it would render them stateless.
Under the Nationality and Borders Bill, it would have become significantly easier for ministers to remove citizenship from people, and they would not have had to provide prior warning.
Minority groups warned that they could become “second-class citizens” if this element of the bill had become law.
Baroness D’Souza said she was not arguing against the orders being issued, but there needed to be “proper safeguards for those who continue to be at risk from previous unlawful actions.”
Secretary Patel has said, however, that the change is needed to protect the UK from security risks, promising the new power would be used only in “exceptional circumstances.”
Peers approved D’Souza’s amendment to the bill by 209 votes to 165.
Last week, the government won a string of votes in the Commons when it overturned a series of previous defeats it had suffered in the Lords on the bill.
The bill will return to the Commons later this month, after MPs return from their Easter break.