LONDON: The UK has seen a significant increase in people being stripped of their citizenship by the government, but has also witnessed more successful appeals against such decisions, new data has revealed.
Between January and September 2022, 354 challenges were lodged against decisions to strip individuals of their UK citizenship. At least 75 of those decisions were successfully overturned across the year.
According to The Observer newspaper, those figures mark an increase from 2021, which saw 120 appeals and 33 decisions overturned, and 119 appeals the previous year with 37 reversed. In 2013-14, there were just 13 challenges.
The government eased the process by which it is able to strip citizenship without warning, following the passing into law of the Nationality and Borders Act in April 2022.
The powers allow the home secretary, currently Suella Braverman but an office occupied by Priti Patel for most of the period in question, to issue citizenship deprivation orders in circumstances pertaining to “the public good,” including for offenses related to terrorism and extremism.
“The news that so many people have overturned attempts to strip them of their citizenship is welcome, as no one should be at risk of being made stateless,” said Fizza Qureshi, CEO of the Migrants’ Rights Network.
“However, it does raise serious concerns about the government’s determination and intention to pursue such draconian measures.”
The practice has drawn close attention in the UK due to the case of Shamima Begum, the young woman from London who fled the UK in 2015 with two school friends to join Daesh in Syria.
Begum, 23, is currently in a camp in northern Syria, having had her British citizenship revoked in 2019.
This caused controversy because although her UK-based parents are Bangladeshi citizens, she is not, effectively leaving her stateless.
On Wednesday, Begum lost her latest appeal against the decision, despite uncertainty over how she came to be in Syria and questions about her culpability on account of her age at the time.
The decision was described by one former intelligence officer as “a travesty of justice.” Huda Mukbil, who worked with British and Canadian state security agencies, told The Observer: “They even recognize she was a child and was trafficked into Syria; there was a breach of duty on behalf of the state (the UK) to make sure she doesn’t leave the country.”
Zehrah Hasan, advocacy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told The Observer: “People who’ve been born and raised here should feel safe in the knowledge that this is their home, regardless of skin color or where their parents were born.
“The home secretary’s use of citizenship deprivation orders — which are eight times more likely to be used against racialized people than white Britons — is discriminatory and draconian, and the courts clearly agree, as we can see from the huge number of rulings they’ve overturned.”
A Home Office spokesperson told The Observer: “Deprivation of citizenship is used against those who have acquired citizenship by fraud and against the most dangerous people, such as terrorists, extremists and serious organized criminals.
“Deprivation of citizenship only happens after careful consideration of the facts, in accordance with international law. Each case is assessed individually on its merits and always comes with the right of appeal.”