The UK Nationality and Borders Bill is not just

British passport and scissors
British passport and scissors

“The Government will not remove Clause 9.” So responded the Home Office to a petition that I and 317,217 others (to date) signed: “Remove Clause 9 from the Nationality and Borders Bill”.

They went on to say, “It is necessary to ensure deprivation powers can be used effectively and will only apply in very limited circumstances. It does not affect the right to appeal. Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill removes the requirement to give notice of a decision to deprive a person of citizenship in certain limited circumstances. The clause also has retrospective effect so that where a decision to deprive has already been made but not notified to the person, the deprivation order stemming from that decision remains valid. This provision strikes the right balance between the rights of the individual and the aims of the policy to keep the public safe.”

The government is still considering whether to have a debate on this, but as the bill is still going through parliament, somehow I think it is not going to happen. It is currently in the committee stage in the House of Lords. A sitting is scheduled for 27 January 2022

The amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill says…

In section 40 of the 1981 Act (deprivation of citizenship) [British Nationality Act 1981], after subsection (5) (which requires notice to be given to a person to be deprived of citizenship) insert “(5A): Subsection (5) does not apply if it appears to the Secretary of State that —

(a) the Secretary of State does not have the information needed to be able to give notice under that subsection,

(b) it would for any other reason not be reasonably practicable to give notice under that subsection, or

© notice under that subsection should not be given —

(i) in the interests of national security,

(ii) in the interests of the relationship between the United Kingdom and another country, or

(iii) otherwise in the public interest.

It seems to me that if a person is considered a danger to the country, they can be arrested straight away if they are in the country, and on their return if they are not, and then due process can be followed before stripping them of their citizenship.

I like to think that we consider ourselves as a country that believes in justice, even if we lose sight of that fact when stirred up by hate-mongers. Justice implies the right to face one’s accusers. Stripping people of their citizenship without due process is not an act of justice. It is not something that I want my country to do.

This holds particularly true when the decision would be in the hands of a government which has proven itself to be dishonest, self-serving and prejudiced, and even, dare I say it, fearful, judging by the way they want to suppress dissent and prevent immigration. This is a government that cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

And since we do not trust them — everyone who has — or they deem could get — citizenship of another country would, if this clause remains in the bill and the bill passes, be continuously afraid that they might be singled out to lose their citizenship. That is a lot of innocent people who would be harmed by a totally unnecessary measure. This would include Lord Woolley, for example.

The bill also makes it harder for refugees and asylum-seekers to come here. Many are already dying trying to cross the English Channel to get here, since safe routes have been closed off. The UNHCR is concerned.

According to the Law Society, the new law, at least as initially drafted, might even be illegal.

According to Amnesty International, there are 8 ways that the bill will not do what its supporters say it will do.

Nautilus International and the UK Chamber of Shipping found it necessary to table an amendment explicitly exempting seafarers who are required to rescue people at sea from criminal prosecution. There were also concerns that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) volunteers could spend life in prison for helping drowning refugees and asylum seekers. Clearly the bill was written without due thought to the consequences.

The bill is the latest in a series of bills giving the government more power, a sure sign of progress towards a more authoritarian, less democratic state. Brits should contact members of the Lords and/or leaders of parties to ask them to get the amendment removed, and for any other changes (or its defeat) they want to the bill.

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