UK Government to push statelessness measure it once called a “negative step”

May 11, 2014

The Government is pushing ahead with plans which would allow it to make Britons stateless by depriving them of their citizenship, despite having once described such moves as a “negative step.”

Less than two years ago, Foreign Office Ministers Baroness Warsi and Alistair Burt said that “revoking citizenship, which leaves individuals stateless, is a negative step,” when responding to concerns over the use of this measure by Bahrain. Yet tomorrow, the Government is expected to continue its campaign to push measures through Parliament which would allow it to remove citizenship from any of the millions of ‘naturalised’ British citizens in the UK, even if doing so would leave them without any nationality at all – and even if the citizen in question has not committed any crime.

The measure, contained in the Immigration Bill, will return to the House of Lords tomorrow afternoon (Monday 12 May), having been rejected by peers first time around. The measures have proved controversial for a number of reasons: former Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald QC, has warned that they would not only “associate the United Kingdom with a policy beloved of the world’s worst regimes during the 20th century,” but are also “very likely to be directly unhelpful” to the “international effort to combat security threats.”

Meanwhile, MPs from all three of the major parties have warned that the measure would create “two classes” or “two tiers” of British citizenship – those born in the UK would be immune to it, whereas those millions of ‘naturalised’ British citizens would be vulnerable to losing that status for life, based solely on the decision of the Home Secretary.

Commenting, Donald Campbell, head of communications at Reprieve said: “The Government was correct to describe making people stateless as a ‘negative step’ – but this makes it all the more difficult to understand why they are now so keen on this dangerous measure.  The Lords rightly rejected this the first time around, and it has to be hoped that they will do so again.  Despite the minor changes made by the Government, this remains a measure which will allow the Home Secretary to arbitrarily send people into a form of modern exile, without any due process and even if they have never committed a crime.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / Donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. Foreign Office Ministers’ previous comments regarding statelessness as a “negative step” were made in Parliament on 13 February 2013, by Baroness Warsi, and 4 March 2013, by Alistair Burt.

3. Ken Macdonald’s comments can be found here.

4. A number of MPs from all three major parties have warned that the measure will create two tiers or classes of British citizen, for example: Julian Huppert (Lib Dem)Diane Abbott (Lab)Jacob Rees-Mogg (Con).