UK Joint Committee On Human Rights Express Concern on ‘Statelessness’

This morning, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), published a report which focuses on the Government’s clause added to the Immigration Bill concerning the deprivation of UK citizenship. As the Government’s Immigration Bill enters committee stage in the House of Lords, JCHR expressed it’s fears that the main purpose of the power to deprive citizenship is to target naturalised Britons while they are abroad.

Last month, we reported that Theresa May’s amendment to the Bill which has been described by Liberty as “irresponsible and unjust”, would strip naturalised British citizens of their citizenship if they were judged to present a threat to national security. Currently, Theresa May cannot revoke a person’s citizenship if it would make them stateless, so the power can only be used on dual nationals who would still have another nationality even if they lost their British citizenship.

JCHR Raise Fears on ‘Deprivation Clause in Immigration Bill

It seems that JCHR accepts that the power in clause 60 to deprive a naturalised citizen of their citizenship (even if it renders them stateless), does not in legal terms involve any breach by the UK of its obligations under the UN Conventions on Statelessness. However, it may lead to increase in statelessness which could represent a change of position in the UK’s human rights policy.

In the report, JCHR:

  • expresses surprise at the Government’s refusal to inform Parliament of the number of cases in which the existing power to deprive of citizenship has been exercised while the UK citizen is abroad, or of the number of cases in which the Secretary of State’s decision was taken wholly or partly in reliance on information which in the Secretary of State’s view should not be made public.   Parliament is entitled to know this information in order to assist it to reach a view as to how the new power is likely to be exercised in practice;
  • considers that there was time to hold a public consultation on the controversial new power in clause 60 which would have made for better informed parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s proposal;
  • is not persuaded that there are sufficiently weighty reasons to justify the new power being made retrospective, and recommends that the Bill be amended so as to prevent it having retrospective effect; and
  • is concerned about the impact of the new power on children and recommends an amendment to the Bill which requires the Secretary of State to take into account the best interests of any child affected when deciding whether to make a deprivation order under the new power.

‘Disappointing’ to see Change in UK Human Rights Policy

Dr Hywel Francis, the chair of the joint committee on human rights, stated:

“The new power will lead to an increase in the number of stateless people and exposes British citizens to the risk of being left stateless. As the supreme court recently said, statelessness is an ‘evil’: it takes away the right to have rights.

The power does not in itself put the UK in breach of any of its international obligations in relation to statelessness but it does pose the risk of breaching our international obligations to other states. We are particularly concerned about the power being used when citizens are abroad. Parliament needs more information about how similar powers have been used in the recent past and assurances about how this power will be used in the future.”

Successful UK Naturalisation/British Citizenship Applications & Appeals

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