Citizens, activists and politicians say bill which could deprive nationality without notice targets minorities.
The UK’s controversial Nationality and Borders bill passed through the House of Commons this week, prompting outrage from citizens, politicians and activists who fear its potentially dangerous effect on ethnic minorities.
Clause 9 of the bill is of particular concern as it will allow the government to deprive a person of citizenship without having to notify them. This can be done if officials either do not have the subject’s contact details or if doing so is not “reasonably practical”.
While depriving someone of their nationality has been allowed under UK law for several years, doing so without giving them notice has not.
The UK deprives citizenship from high-profile criminals and previous examples include Shamima Begum, the Londoner born to Bangladeshi parents who was affiliated with ISIL (ISIS) in Syria, a dual British-Sudanese national known as K2 who was allegedly involved in terrorism-related activities linked to al-Shabab, and British-Pakistani members of a grooming gang targeting girls in northern England.
The practice used to be rare. Until 2017, the number of people who were stripped of their citizenship was fewer than 20 a year. In recent years, it has been as high as more than 100.
Critics say ethnic minorities are at risk of becoming second-class citizens, because many hold two nationalities or could potentially get another passport.
The bill will now progress to the House of Lords, where it is likely to be approved and become legally binding.
“I grew up with grandparents who insisted on keeping their non-British passports because ‘they could kick us out at any moment, you never know…’ We used to laugh saying, ‘relax, that would never happen.’ Yesterday, the UK made this fear rational, by passing a law that allows them to strip ethnic minorities of their citizenship without notice or right to appeal,” tweeted Raj Kaur, an activist and author.
Labour MP Apsana Begum said it will only cause suffering to those most vulnerable in society.
Ian Dunt, an author, tweeted: “The bill is obscene: cruel, pointless, illiterate, racist, constitutionally unsound and against the principle of retrospective law-making. No sane democratic society would have passed it. And yet they have.”
Samantha Asumadu, a campaigner for representation in the media, told Al Jazeera: “I only knew about the bill on Friday through the New Statesman piece, that said that up to six million people were at risk of being deported.”
In that recent report by the New Statesman magazine, reporters alleged that the the bill focuses on minorities – who currently make up nearly six million people in England and Wales – and who could be at risk of deportation if they were to commit a crime that was deemed applicable by the government.
Asumadu called for cross-community action to resist the bill.
“The goal is to stop the Nationality and borders bill in its entirety. Collaboration among all groups is are only and best option. Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and more have come together in the last few days to oppose this bill. The opposition will only grow as it approaches its next trading in the House of Lords.”
A petition against Clause 9 has gathered more than 100,000 signatures. Parliament will consider a debate for all petitions that reach that level, according to government guidelines.
Conservative ministers reportedly cheered the bill’s passing in Parliament on Wednesday night, with Home Secretary Priti Patel – the bill’s main backer – saying she was “delighted”.
Amie, a campaigner at No Borders Manchester, said while the bill’s success in Parliament passing was “disheartening”, it was not unexpected.
In the run-up to the House of Commons vote, No Borders Manchester had been organising action around the bill, using Twitter storms and knowledge-sharing workshops to spread awareness over its contents and potential effect.
Another clause in the bill would criminalise anyone taking part in refugee rescue missions in the English Channel.