A recent report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent has revealed the British Government has been stripping terror suspects of their citizenship. The laws enabling the government rescind the citizenship of dual nationals on national security grounds were passed at the height of anti- terrorist hysteria in 2002, but have rarely used by the executive branch until recently. Since 2010 the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, has revoked the passports of 16 individuals suspected of having links to terrorist organisation. What makes this investigation more controversial is the fate of some of these people, two of which have been killed by U.S drone strikes. Among the many implications this poses is the accusation that the British Government “washed their hands” of these men, effectively silencing any judicial or diplomatic claim to wrongdoing that would involve Britain.
Another element in a number of these cases is timing; many were deprived of citizenship while outside the country meaning they were unable to return. The report could not mention a number of those involved due to ongoing legal cases, but in the few that were made public it is clear that extrajudicial action has been taken to prevent cause for intervention by the British Government.
One such case was the targeting of Bilal al-Berjawi, a British-Lebanese citizen who grew up in London and spent the overwhelming majority of his life there. In 2009 he travelled to Somalia with his close friend Mohamed Sakr, who also held Egyptian nationality, both of whom were subject to extensive surveillance by the security services and were accused of becoming involved with al-Shebaab, a militant organisation with close ties to al-Qaeda. In 2010 both men were stripped of their British nationalities, and Mr Berjawi was wounded the next year in a U.S drone strike and killed the following year with the same action. Mr Sakr was killed in February 2012 by a U.S drone strike and his British nationality has only just been revealed.
It would seem that after these men lost ties to a Western nation they became easier to label enemy combatants, making both official and media responses less relatable and thus less controversial when under public scrutiny. It remains unclear whether there was direct collusion between the British and United States Governments to organise such military action after citizenship had been revoked, but it seems too coincidental to dismiss out of hand.
There have also been a number of cases where entire families have been denied return to the U.K under the same auspices of national security. A Pakistani man, born in Newcastle, and his three London born sons all had their citizenship revoked while on holiday in Pakistan two years ago. This is not an isolated case, yet the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) has set a precedent suggesting that the “UK owed no obligation” to those at risk of “any action of the Pakistani state or non-state actors”. This was furthered by the mother of the family, a naturalised British citizen, who appealed to return for her son who has learning difficulties and would not get the support he needed in Pakistan. A judge for Siac, Mr Justice Mitting ruled that it was an “unavoidable incidental impact” and dismissed the appeal.
Overall the tactic of taking citizenship from British Citizens with links to other countries will increase tensions between some communities and the government. Paradoxically it may mean that the country is made less secure through these actions, as people may feel that they are not British and have no affinity with the country.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “Citizenship is a privilege, not a right. The Home Secretary has the power to remove citizenship from individuals where she considers it is conducive to the public good”. This demonstrates both the disregard for citizens of dual nationality, and the subjective nature of what is considered the public good. It is alarming that with all the checks and balances on power in the United Kingdom, people’s right to stay in the country they were born depends on a flimsy interpretation of the law.
BY: Anonymous writter