Citizenship-stripping plans face opposition from legal experts

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Plans which would give the Home Secretary the power to deprive millions of British people of their citizenship will this week enter the final stages of their passage through the Lords – in the face of opposition from a range of legal experts.

The proposals, introduced by Theresa May as part of the Immigration Bill (Clause 64), would give her the power to strip Britons of their citizenship, even where doing so would leave them stateless; and without having to first go through any form of legal process.

Applying only to ‘naturalised’ British citizens – ie those not born in the UK – the proposals would significantly widen the number of people who could be targeted, to an estimated 3-4 million in England and Wales alone. Concerns have also been raised that they would lead to a system of “two-tier citizenship” in Britain, where one class of citizen could be hit by the penalty while another remains immune.

Today (31 March) sees the first of three days of debate scheduled for the Immigration Bill in the Lords. Among the amendments tabled to the Bill is one from a group of legal experts which would remove the Home Secretary’s Clause 64 from the Bill, setting up in its place a Parliamentary committee to consider the issue.

The amendment (number 56) has been tabled by former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald QC; former Supreme Court judge, Lord Brown; leading barrister Lord Pannick QC; and Labour front-bencher Baroness Smith.

Commenting, Clare Algar, Executive Director of the legal charity Reprieve said: “These plans would give one politician the power to impose a form of medieval exile on British citizens, without even needing the sign-off of any court. Similar proposals in the US were described by that country’s Supreme Court as ‘more primitive than torture.’ They would also create a two-tier system of citizenship, with millions of Britons exposed for life to this punishment, simply because of where they were born. The Lords must reject these dangerous and ill-thought-out proposals.”

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