“Primitive” deprivation of citizenship powers come into force

July 28, 2014

Image of hands hanging on the bars of a prison cell

New powers have today come into force that allow Home Secretary Theresa May to deprive naturalised Brits of their citizenship, even where doing so would render them stateless.

The new powers, which fall under section 40 of the 1981 British Nationality Act, were passed in the Commons earlier this year, having been brought forward at the last minute.

The Home Secretary may deprive a person of their citizenship if she is “satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good.” The decision to deprive is taken in secret and solely by the Home Secretary, while victims of the order are not allowed a hearing.

Deprivation of citizenship has been described by the US Supreme Court as “a form of punishment more primitive than torture”. The UK government has often made deprivation orders when victims are abroad, making it impossible for them to appeal.

Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: “Today is a dark day for the rule of law and for British democracy. The powers that Theresa May assumes today are espoused by the likes of the French far right. The prohibition on statelessness was the only tangible check on the Home Secretary’s considerable power; its removal raises the worrying prospect that Brits could be made stateless as a prelude to illegal rendition or, worse, a drone strike.”

ENDS

Notes for editors

1. For further information, please contact Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk / 0207 553 8160

2. The US Supreme Court’s ruling in Trop v Dulles, 1957, can be found here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/356/86