How the power of the home secretary to deprive a person of their United Kingdom citizenship is creating a second class of United Kingdom citizens from immigrant families

3rd March 2021

Despite modern political discourse being dominated by demands of what the ‘state’ should and should not do, there is often little in practice that ministers can do towards their political objectives.

Laws may be passed that may or may not have wanted effects; revenues can be raised and resources allocated that may or may not have any desired impact; international agreements may be made – or broken – that may or may not have certain effects; speeches can be made, and lines spun.

But a good deal of this activity and inactivity is at least one step removed from ensuring any real social and economic change (or lack of change), for government and administration is not an exact science.

And for anything that actually affect the rights of individuals, there would then be the pesky courts with their activist judges and scoundrel lawyers.

Over the last decade, however, one government department realised there were things it could do.

The home office has hit upon the one area of policy where it can make decisions that have direct social and economic consequences, but in a largely law-free way.

The home office could take people’s citizenship and residency rights away.


Certain manifestations of this general policy approach can be seen with the Windrush scandal and in the deportation of those with certain criminal convictions.

And so on.


Just as important as these executive actions, of course, was the threat of such executive actions.

This was not an accident – it was the design of the policy.

That policy was the ‘hostile environment’.

As the former home secretary Theresa May said candidly in a 2012 interview:

“The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration.”


Billboards and signs on vans are one thing, but ready and easy use of executive powers are another.

And the home office – like any addict – began to use this legal power of international displacement more and more.

The home office could do things – and (more-or-less) get away with them.

The next step from stripping people of any residency rights they may have was to deprive them, when possible, of their citizenship rights.

From removing illegal immigrants, to removing those who were from immigrant families but were in the United Kingdom lawfully and indeed were citizens of the United Kingdom.

And so this is what they did.


The outstanding Free Movement blog has compiled this table:

According to Colin Yeo, in this detailed and informative survey of the use of the power to deprive a United Kingdom citizen of their citizenship:

‘until quite recently, the power to deprive a person of their British citizenship on the grounds of behaviour was almost moribund, having been used against perhaps a handful of Russian spies…in practice, ‘deprivation powers were not used at all between 1973 and 2002’.

The cases mentioned by Yeo will show why many might not mind many of the deprivations – unpleasant individuals who have done highly unpleasant things.

Many would even clap and cheer and shout good riddance.

But each case is also an instance of simple executive power – a ministerial decision, rather than a prior judgment by a court or tribunal – that strips a person of their citizenship of the United Kingdom – even if that person was born a United Kingdom citizen.

Under section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 (as amended heavily over the years), the right of citizenship of a person is entirely at the satisfaction of the home secretary.

(See this blog’s post here.)

And once the home secretary is satisfied that you should lose your citizenship then the citizenship is lost, by instant operation of law.

The person affected may seek to appeal such a decision – but they do so from the position of no longer being a United Kingdom citizen.

The decision takes effect before – sometimes long before – it can be considered by any court or tribunal.

This is what raw executive power looks like.

And the home office likes it this way.


Because of the international law in respect of ‘statelessness’ (which this blog set out here), this executive power is usually used (or should be used) only where the person affected already has the status at law of citizenship of another country.

This means it can be used against people with dual citizenship.

And this means it can be used most readily against those who are from first or second generation immigrant families.

So there are now two classes of United Kingdom citizen.

A first class of those who have no other nationality, and so against whom the home secretary cannot (or should not) use their power to deprive them of their citizenship of the United Kingdom.

And a second class of those who will also have another nationality and so can have their citizenship of the United Kingdom instantly removed at the satisfaction of the home secretary.

These second class citizens will primarily be comprised of those from first or second generation immigrant families.

This means, in turn, that many of those affected will tend to be those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

On this basis, the operation of this law and policy would be discriminatory against those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The very structure of this law and policy would mean it cannot work any other way.

And so a citizen of the United Kingdom – born in the United Kingdom and with no personal relationship with any other country – can have their citizenship instantly removed by a government minister without any prior judicial step just because they are from an immigrant family.

And the home office likes it this way.


This post is part of a series of posts on the Shamima Begum case.

There is something wrong – very wrong – about the legal situation of Shamima Begum.

That is, at least on the basis of information in the public domain – which is, of course, the only information on which the public can have confidence in the relevant law and policy.

The legal case is, however, complex – at least on the face of it, with sets of legal proceedings and appeals that have resulted so far in a number of lengthy judgments by variously constituted courts.

So to get to the wrongness of this situation, this blog will be doing a sequence of posts, each on a different element of the case.

Previous posts have included:

  • initial thoughts on the illiberal supreme court decision (here)
  • the parallel of the supreme court decision with the 1941 case of Liversidge v Anderson (here)
  • the legal power of the home secretary to deprive a person of United Kingdom citizenship (here)
  • statelessness and the law and the case of Shamima Begum (here)

Further posts will show how the home office and the courts dealt (and did not deal) with important issues in this case.

The purpose of this Begum series of posts is to promote the public understanding of law.

The posts in this Begum series on this blog will be every few days, alongside commentary on other law and policy matters.


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44 thoughts on “How the power of the home secretary to deprive a person of their United Kingdom citizenship is creating a second class of United Kingdom citizens from immigrant families”

  1. In addition to black and minority ethnic populations, does the present interpretation of the law – that you can apparently be stripped of citizenship if the Home Secretary thinks you will be eligible for that of another country – not apply more broadly?

    For instance, under the ‘Law of Return’ all Jews are eligible to become citizens of Israel.

    Under the Good Friday Agreement, all people born in Northern Ireland are eligible to be citizens of the Republic of Ireland (as is anyone who had a grandparent born on the island).

    They are, it appears to me, two other substantial groups of people who are now second class citizens in the UK.

    And, while much is made of the nature of what Ms Begum is said to have done, the actual belief of the Home Secretary is that someone’s presence is “not conducive to the public good.”

    It does not require much imagination to conjure a scenario in which tabloid outrage might urge such a view upon a Home Secretary. If, say, from my corner of North-East London three young men – one English, one Jewish and one of Indian descent went together to desecrate a war memorial, is it right that two of them might face deportation, while the other would not?

    1. I am sure you didn’t mean to say it as a way you did, but both the Jewish person and the person of Indian heritage are as English as the third person.

      But you are right, it isn’t fair that the BAME people should be treated differently to the non-BAME one.

      1. Yes, I meant one without any claim on citizenship elsewhere, and couldn’t quite figure out the best way to express that.

        They are all citizens, but no longer equal under the law, it appears.

    2. There are two distinct situations: someone who is automatically a UK citizen by birth and someone who becomes a UK citizen through naturalization.

      If my reading of 40(4A) is correct the the “eligible for citizenship of another country” test solely applies to this second case. In the first case the Home Secretary must be certain that the person does hold dual nationality.

      1. I was born in China in 1948 and my brother was born in England in 1949, so we fall into different categories. I have British nationality through naturalisation but he is automatically British. We do not consider ourselves citizens of another country. However, what happens if another country consider us to be its citizens?

        Our parents were both citizens of the Republic of China at the time of our birth. In December 1949, the government was overthrown and moved to Taiwan and this country still calls itself officially the Republic of China. My parents never renounced their citizenship and never became British citizens despite living here for over 40 years until they died.

        According to Wikipedia, “Legislation granting Republic of China nationality is extremely broad in scope. All persons of ethnic Taiwanese and Chinese origin, regardless if they have resided overseas for an extended period of time, are technically ROC nationals. Consequently, children born abroad to any of these people automatically acquire ROC nationality at birth. Furthermore, because of Taiwan’s continuing constitutional claims over areas controlled by the People’s Republic of China, PRC nationals from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau are considered ROC nationals by Taiwan.”

        It seems therefore that, according to the government’s ruling on Shamima Begum’s citizenship rights, both my brother and I could lose our British nationality if we became terrorists because we are technically citizens of another country.

    3. There are I think far more people living in the UK potentially at risk. The Windrush issue , I understand, applies to all Commonwealth citizens, and therefore includes those from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, notably largely white, hence less targeted it seems. But there have been individual cases, such as a woman born in Australia, living and working here for many years who was challenged over her right to be here due to having to go onto long term disability benefits.
      Anyone with parents or grandparents born abroad could be vulnerable.
      Before 1983 a British mother could not pass on her citizenship to her children, it had to be via the father. This effected me as my father was born abroad. I do not know what happened to illegitimate children. This is another group with an insecure situation.
      I note that a huge proportion of MPs, businessmen, and public figures do not have “British” surnames. Our society is formed of people with ancestors born all over the world. This terrifying power of the Home Secretary puts so many at risk. No one individual or government should have such power. This is a dog whistle for the ignorant and parochial, of which recent Tory governments should be ashamed. Especially when Javid, Patel and Johnson are all the children of immigrants themselves.

  2. Thank you for highlighting this appalling behaviour by the Home Office. As you say, the people most affected are British citizens who come from first generation immigrant families. It is very hard not to see racial profiling as part of the process.

    In theory however, could it not also apply to anyone else with a potential citizenship elsewhere – people with an Irish (including Northern Irish) grandparent, Jews (nearly all with a right to move to and take Israeli citizenship)? What about people here who have citizenship or potential citizenship of British dependencies like the Channel Islands?

    It would be quite funny if the first act of an incoming Labour government would be to deprive the current Home Secretary of her British citizenship.

    1. The Israeli (and I think the Northern Irish) examples aren’t quite right as they give you the right to apply for citizenship which is different to what’s being discussed here. Having citizenship in these cases requires a positive act by you.

      The difference in the cases DAG raises (and in the case of the current Prime Minister until he renounced his US citizenship) it is that they are – or are said to be – citizens of those countries by automatic operation of law and often without any awareness of the fact.

  3. This is quite a shocking (to me) bit of legislation. I had, naively, assumed that the deprivation of citizenship provisions only applied to people who naturalised as British Citizens (which would be bad enough, but perhaps – just about – arguably OK), but subsection 2 allows the government to de-citizen *anybody*, subject only to subsection 4.

    It’s also shocking, because it’s terribly written. In particular starting a subsection with the word “but” (without the second word being “for”, which would be the only acceptable use of that word to start a new paragraph) riles me. And the separation in treatment of naturalised and everyone by subs (2) and (3), only to put them back together again in (4A). But I digress.

  4. An interesting essay from which I took two particular lessons.

    a) Some countries, such as Spain, do not allow dual nationalities. You’re either Spanish, or you’re not. If the UK had the same law, the Home Secretary wouldn’t have any authority to remove nationality. I’ve always deemed a dual (or more) nationality to be a Good Thing – especially as I wish I had an EU nationality at the moment (thanks brexit) but you’ve highlighted a distinct and dangerous downside to it.

    b) A less pervasive alternative would be a more rigorous method to remove UK nationality. Whereby a well-written set of Laws interpreted by highly trained Judges could determine a request from the Home Secretary BEFORE any action is taken. I can’t realistically see a Home Secretary of any political flavour allowing this diminishment to their powers but still, the basis works in other areas of governmental law, so why not here?

    1. As DAG said yesterday, the law is such that you don’t need to HAVE dual nationality to be deprived of the one you have. You need to have the potential nationality in law of the other country.

      Shemima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen. She is, in the eyes of the Home Sec, potentially a Bangladeshi citizen in Bangladeshi law, and that is enough. She has not had, ever, dual citizenship.

      Equally, I am a UK citizen of Jewish heritage. I am not a citizen of Israel. However, it would appear that because I could, under Israeli law, apply to be an Israeli citizen, the Home Sec could deprive me of my only actual citizenship.

      1. This could apply to my husband who is British born and of British descent for many generations. However, by virtue of a Jewish maternal great-great grandmother, he might be eligible for Israeli nationality. He once investigated the possibility.

    2. I think you haven’t quite got the most pernicious and disturbing aspect of this: in many countries right to citizenship is by ‘blood’, so called jus sanguinis. So if your parent is from a hostile country which has this law, they could treat you as their citizen upon your entering this country, despite other citizenships you hold and without your consent. This is potentially worrying enough, considering things such homosexuality and abortion are severely punished in some parts of the world, but now we have the added threat of loss of UK citizenship due to potential entitlement to another citizenship ‘by blood’. Anyone with one Irish grandparent has the right to Irish citizenship (so the entire Pontins’ blacklist would qualify for this process). Hostile governments find ways of getting out of these ‘blood’ laws when they want to: in 1968 the communist government in Poland decided to deport some of its citizens of Jewish heritage: their ancestors might have lived on the country’s territory for over thousand years, still, they apparently didn’t have sufficient ‘blood’ entitlement to citizenship, and there was no appeal.

      1. See also all the Australian politicians who were disqualified from office on discovering technical dual nationalities due to parents having been born overseas.

        There was a funny idea at the time that New Zealand should pass a law granting all Australian parliamentarians Kiwi citizenship thereby disabling the Australian government.

        The idea that some other country’s citizenship law should affect the rights of citizenship here is a deeply troubling situation.

    3. Minor correction:

      a) only applies to people who naturalise Spanish, and are not from the Philipines, Portugal, Andorra or Latin America.

      If I naturalise British, I will not lose my Spanish nationality, provided I send, within two years of obtaining the new citizenship, a sworn statement to a Consulate or “Delegación del Gobierno” I wish to keep my nationality. My children are dual nationals, and in fact qualify for a third nationality.

  5. Great posts. Ms Begum’s situation is now a cause celebre, thank you for explaining it so clearly, it is hard to see how the legal provisions you describe could ever serve a useful purpose for ordinary citizens who do not have access to the courts. I wonder how the exclusion of the Irish (at that time citizens of Great Britain) and non conformist Scots, English and Welsh Christians, none of whom had dual citizenship, from education, property ownership and employment differ from this case. As none of them had the benefits system on which rely for survival, or champions who would meet the cost and risk of a legal challenge, great numbers emigrated ( and never regretted it). I can’t bring myself to care about Ms Begums rights, since they seem to be completely detached from responsibilities to either country of which she claims to be a citizen, but you have made me think, and I am grateful to you for your work.

  6. I think my major objection to “the hostile environment” is that its sole purpose is to score political points with a sector of the community that supports the government. It has very little to do with the individuals on the sharp end and their friends and families who remain in the UK (the Windrush scandal highlights this best, of course). There is something deeply unsavoury about using the law for party political benefit. A compunding factor (in WIndrush) is that much of the (former) Home Office work has been outsourced to contractors who are slaves to the “Quality Management” dogma and seem to have zero room for the appication of discretion or common sense, being bound by the procedures that they must follow – only certain “proofs” of stay in the UK were accepted despite overwhelming evidence that shows the individual had been legally resident for decades.

    It is to be hoped that a non-Tory government will reverse these very shoddy moves.

  7. I don’t know now where this leaves me.

    I was born in China of Chinese parents and came to this country as a baby in 1948. The government of the Republic of China was overthrown in 1949 and moved to Taiwan. My parents were citizens of the Republic of China and never renounced their citizenship. Nor did they acquire British citizenship, despite living here until they died over 40 years later. They both travelled abroad with UK-issued identity cards.

    I also travelled abroad with a UK identity card before acquiring British citizenship by naturalisation in 1972. I have many relations in the People’s Republic of China and have travelled there frequently, but I am not a citizen and I am not entitled to be a citizen as I cannot prove that I was born there.

    However, I may be entitled to citizenship of the Republic of China (Taiwan), so I am in a similar situation to Shamima Begum, but with an even weaker claim to British citizenship (presumably) than hers. She at least was born here and has one parent with British citizenship.

    Do my citizenship rights depend on my good behaviour? I should declare here that I have also been to Syria – three times in fact, in 2002, 2015 and 2019.

    1. Do your citizenship rights depend on good behaviour? In short, it seems to me that, yes, they might, if there is a colourable claim that you are already a national elsewhere.

      s.40(2) says “The Secretary of State may by order deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good”.

      That applies to anyone, born in the UK or not.

      But then s.40(4) say “The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (2) if he is satisfied that the order would make a person stateless.”

      It seems to me the order could be made as long as the secretary of state is not persuaded that a person would become stateless, but the notices seem to be phrased the other way around, that the secretary of state is persuaded that a person would not become stateless, which is slightly different.

      And then, if you are naturalised, you can be deprived of citizenship under s.40(3) – fraud, false representation, or concealment of a material fact – and s.40(4A) also says that subsection 4 does not prevent an order being made if “the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds for believing that the [naturalised person] is able, under the law of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, to become a national of such a country or territory”

      So there are different tests in subsection 4 and 4A. The first asks, would you become stateless or not (that is, are you already a national elsewhere under the law of that place, as interpreted by the UK courts, whether or not in practice you have or can actually obtain that nationality) and the second asks, even if you would become stateless, could you become a national elsewhere.

      Is someone born in Northern Ireland, or with Irish grandparents, or entitled to make aliyah, automatically already a citizen in Ireland or Israel, or just entitled to make a claim for citizenship, perhaps subject to some conditions? Does that make a difference?

      This is deeply disturbing. Not only is there no prior judicial step – just an administrative act, a stroke of the pen – there is also little effective right to judicial review or appeal, given the deference that the courts show to executive decisions, as the cases of Pham and Begum show.

      1. Thank you for your detailed explanatory reply. As you say, deeply disturbing.

        And here’s another scenario. British citizens, who buy a home in Portugal worth 280,000 euros or more and visit it for at least 7 days a year, are entitled to Portuguese citizenship after 5 years. It is now 5 years since this rule was introduced. Presumably the citizenship rights of those people who bought a house 5 or more years ago are also at risk if the Secretary of State sees their citizenship as not “conducive to the public good”.

  8. I have a mother born in The Republic of Ireland. My daughters have an American mother. So the Home Secretary would be spoiled for choice should any of us, my siblings, my nieces or nephews offend her.
    I am concerned that the decision of the Supreme Court may, to some degree, be a consequence of the pressure being brought to bear on the judiciary by the current government. It is clearly a breach of international law against statelessness.
    I had never thought that we would see a politicisation of the judiciary (and civil service) in this country in the manner of the USA, Poland and others. But this looks like the thin end of a very unpleasant wedge.

  9. It would be interesting to track the history of the (dubious) notion ‘conducive to the public good’. It was I believe originally applied to immigrants (as in the 1905 Aliens Act). It was for example used in 1963 to justify the deportation of the great comedian, Lenny Bruce, a US citizen visiting the UK. But we now have a Home Secretary using the very same words to justify the removal or refusal of entry of British citizens by first turning them into aliens.

    It’s a curious idea that being someone whose presence is not conducive to the public good is a status that only foreigners can have.

    Thank you David for writing so lucidly about this matter.

  10. Shamima Begum could have renounced her Bangladeshi nationality, and had she done this in time, it would have made it harder for her UK nationality to be revoked.

    Perhaps there will be a campaign here to persuade immigrants to renounce their non-UK citizenship (where possible, and where they do not want to retain ties to their or their parents former country) so as to afford them greater protection from the Home Office.

    1. Shamima Begum could have renounced her Bangladeshi nationality, and had she done this in time, it would have made it harder for her UK nationality to be revoked.

      Explain how this could have been done by a teenager, by reference to the applicable laws in UK and Bangladesh. Marks also awarded for working out.

      1. How on earth am I meant to renounce my potential Israeli citizenship? I have no intention of becoming an Israeli citizen and no reason and no means formally to renounce my non-citizenship.

        What is more it isn’t even clear that – in the exceeding unlikely event that Ms Begum had gone to a solicitor and issued formal statement that she would never apply for Bangladeshi citizenship – that the legal situation would be in any way different, given that Bangladesh already says she isn’t an actual or a potential citizen.

        DAG’s response was sarcastic. I am just angry.

      2. Since I like a challenge, I looked this up. It can either be renounced using her own Bangladeshi passport or her parent’s. So to do this at the Bangladeshi High Commission in Damascus, estranged from her parents, she would have needed to get a Bangladeshi passport before she left the UK.

        Really the point I am making is that she could have (with parental permission) renounced much earlier in her life, in order not to be a “second class” UK citizen. I think it is quite reasonable that some people will want to do this.

    2. Citizenship is a relation between a country and a person. In principle, any country may claim any person in the world as its citizen, with or without that person’s knowledge. There may or may not be any effective procedure by which the person can renounce their (possibly unwanted) citizenship.

      A concrete example of this may help: Taiwan does not permit any male citizen who was born on the island to renounce his citizenship until he has completed his mandatory military service.

  11. From previous posts in this highly informative series I understand that the Home Secretary removed this woman’s citizenship because he deemed it ‘conducive to the public good’, citing ‘National Security’ as the reason.

    I wonder how far the consideration of ‘public good’ extends.

    It is not clear to me whether the risk to National Security from Ms Begum is in anticipation of her actions as an individual or her potential to inspire others, but I assume (perhaps naïvely) that these were both qualified and quantified.

    Either way, if the cost of carrying out this public good is the effective ‘othering’ of a large proportion of UK citizens, this seems like a mighty price to pay.

    Apart from a dog whistle to those for whom ‘send them back where they came from’ represents is a credible economic and social policy option, the development of mistrust, resentment, and disaffectedness between citizens seems to be precisely the conditions under which grooming and radicalisation are likely to flourish.

  12. Has there been any detailed consideration of whether the introduction of the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy by Teresa May while Home Secretary was itself legal? Would a charge of malfeasance in public office have any prospect of success? Will chants of ‘Lock her up’ ring through the halls of Westminister?

  13. To add to the conversation….I have close links to Manchester (although living in Italy) in particular coming from the area where a large proportion of schoolchildren where murdered in the Mancherster arena bombing.
    I am alarmed at the removal of British citizenship from a young woman. For whatever reasons the Home Secretary has taken this step it is obvious the legalalities have all been considered by both sides as we have been reading in DAG’s excellent articles. At times too complicated and distressing to get my head round so to speak.
    I am certain though if you canvassed the views of people living in Manchester and indeed elsewhere the genuine, emotive aftershock of this albeit unlinked event would influence a lot of people to support the decision. I feel, in my simplistic view, she knows this and has carried on pursueing this decision regardless.
    Reading on the Manchester Evening News app the screams to have citizens stripped of their passports for drunken behaviour on planes leads to me to think a lot of people don’t appreciate the preciousness of citizenship and the difference between that and nationality.

  14. the aspect that troubles me the most in Shamima Begum’s case is the psychological- she was a child when she made the decision to join ISIS and to run away from home, and when she was found in that refugee camp six years later she had given birth to 3 children, all of whom had died son after their births, major traumas for any mother. Where is the compassion in all the decision making?
    And, on a simpler note- at the opening you have spelled ‘realised’ incorrectly !this diminishes your credibility!

    1. I agree. Begum is the product of her life and education ( and serious mishandling of the understanding of and cooperation with the UK Muslim community) in this country. The authorities were aware of her vulnerability and possible online manipulation and abuse, yet did not take effective action to warn her parents nor protect her. Since leaving UK she has had trauma upon trauma, and now, still a very young woman, is stateless and with no prospect of ever seeing her family again. In fact of any sort of life anywhere as it seems no country will have her.
      Her “crimes” were committed long before she was 18. We have one of the lowest age of criminal responsibility in the world at 10. Will we soon see10 year olds deprived of their citizenship and deported to other countries?

  15. What has happened here is the exercise of a “don’t darken our door again” power. Someone who is not currently in the country is not welcome to return. That is the objective, and it is being achieved in this case by removing citizenship, which appears to be possible in this narrow set of circumstances. Could parliament pass a law that allows the government to maintain a “not welcome back” list that could apply to citizens who are not currently in the country without removing citizenship? This would seem to be a less discriminatory mechanism, but judicial oversight would still be a problem.

  16. Another group at risk of being deprived of UK citizenship are children like my own – I’m British and my wife is an EU citizen. My children, both born in UK, have dual citizenship. EU citizens, worried that settled status is not secure in the face of the kind of government we currently have, may seek British citizenship, but (though better than settled status) are not free of risk either. Another group, potentially at risk, are existing British citizens seeking to gain dual nationality from an EU country (as we’ve seen with the number of applications in France, Germany and particularly Ireland rising). What’s to stop a particularly vindictive Home Office taking some sort of ‘revenge’ on such ‘remainers’? So, together with black and minority ethnic immigrants and their descendants, we have potentially hundreds of thousands of people legitimately in UK at risk of being stripped of their citizenship and deported. It really is a dark and distressing time in the UK. How on earth did we ever get here?

  17. If we look beyond the Begum case, the effect of this law is that criminals with dual citizenship can legally escape punishment by moving abroad. There is no guarantee that other countries will prosecute our criminals. Roman Polanski lives a life of luxury in France after drugging and raping a thirteen year old. Going abroad is not a punishment, it’s how criminals escape punishment, that’s why the US is fighting to get Snowdon, Assange & Polanski back. It’s absurd that this is being touted as being tough on crime.

    1. I’m not sure I follow, Sandy. Are you saying that the Home Secretary has been systematically removing nationality from people suspected of crimes, as an easier alternative to bringing a criminal prosecution? And that such people are thereby avoiding being held accountable for their crimes, in the UK or elsewhere? Evidence please.

      I suppose you might see Begum and Pham as examples – both people associated with terrorist activities – but we extradited Pham to the US where he was convicted; and as I understand it, Begum is detained indefinitely in Syria (she is not free to leave the camp) but might be convicted and executed if she was sent to Bangladesh.

      There have been a number of cases of dual nationals being convicted in the UK and then having their UK nationality stripped, a double punishment that others do not face. Some who were born in or naturalised in the the UK and lived here for decades, and have no real ongoing connection with the other country, but like Begum we wash our hands of the problem.

  18. I have been following this subject with some bafflement. Bringing in notions as liberal-illiberal, absolute human rights, and distrust for authority arguing on the basis of worst case scenarios takes us much to far into the culture wars territory of contested values.

    From my limited understanding of this particular case (and particular cases are not generally a good basis for public policy and law) it appears to me that the fundamental problem is the lack of sufficiently precise legislation setting out the conditions under which someone could have citizenship revoked and the process to be followed. The existing legislation does this by defining who is responsible for making the determination-the home secretary-and excluding cases which would render a person stateless. I may be wrong but I am under the impression that the decision of the Home Secretary was appealed-to and denied by the Supreme Court. Sounds like a correct and reasonable process to me. But it is clearly not enough.

    Let’s now consider the situation where Begum does not have dual citizenship with Bangledesh. What could the Government’s do under existing law? I am sure that the great majority of the British public would, in this instance, consider Begum to be a traitor, terrorist and self-exile, and to have forfeited the rights of citizenship. Traditionally, traitors have been condemned to death. What charges, what punishment, under what law(s) would apply?

  19. My nieces have a German mother, who (rather than my brother) registered their births and later obtained German passports for them. At that time my sister-in-law and brother weren’t married. Between them they have lost paperwork and my nieces face some difficulty in obtaining British passports. Accordingly, the HS could send them “home” to Germany, a country they have only a fleeting relationship with.

  20. Exile was long a punishment available to king and courts.
    Would an option be to reintroduce exile as a punishment for terrorism, aiding the enemy etc.?

    That way everyone who behaved the same way as Begum et al could be exiled, regardless of whether they held other citizenships. This would avoid any discrimination to BAME communities, and enable us to protect ourselves from terrorists

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