Author, Ian Dunt, tweeted “The bill is obscene: cruel, pointless, illiterate, racist, constitutionally unsound and against the principle of retrospective law-making. No sane democratic society would have passed it. And yet they have.”
The proposed bill will loosen the requirements for the government to notify people that their citizenship had been revoked, which campaigners have claimed could threaten individuals’ ability to appeal.
The bill, said to be the broadest in the G20, could result in six million people in England being stripped of their citizenship under current rules, and whose right to notification could be prevented, an analysis from the Office for National Statistics finds. This includes an estimated 39 per cent of black Britons and half of British Asians, compared with 5 per cent of people from a white background.
Within the G20, only India and Brazil have such powers that can make their citizens stateless. Other members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.
Labelled as the most racist piece of legislation in the last half-century, Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders bill will create a second-tier category of British citizenship. The bill’s powers apply to “naturalised-Brits” – people who secured their citizenship through immigration. This means that their length of citizenship would be irrelevant, even if a person had lived here for 50 years, they could be established as a second-class citizen by the Home Office. Patel’s own parents fled persecution in Uganda to seek refuge in Britain, meaning they too could face becoming stateless.
deprive a person of citizenship if the authorities do not have the subject’s contact details, if it is not ‘reasonably practical to do so’, if in the interests of ‘national security’, ‘diplomatic reasons’, or for the ‘public interest’. These categories are so broad as to be meaningless. The overall effect of this Clause would prevent people from securing their right to appeal. Without notice, this would likely be applied at the border.
Imagine someone who has been a British citizen for decades, they go on holiday and when they try to return, they’re told that the Home Secretary has stripped them of their citizenship. They do not have to be told why, or even of the charges against them. They have no right to appeal, they have been made stateless.
This could be reality for over 6 million British citizens.
The bill also aims to rule asylum claims made by undocumented people as inadmissible, as well as criminalise them and anyone aiding in refugee rescue missions in the English Channel.
In the UK today, immigration policy is a continuation of British colonial power. The bill is anti-refugee and will lead to misery and death. This already exists, in November 2021, 31 people died after attempting to cross the channel. This included a pregnant woman and three children. This tragedy was a result of an immigration system that dehumanises and seeks to criminalise human beings due to where they were born. In the last couple years, the Home Secretary has committed to making the route across the channel “unviable”, resulting in no less people attempting the journey, just fewer survivors.
Philosopher Achille Mbembe refers to this as “necropolitics”, a term he coined to describe the use of social and political power to dictate how some people may live and some must die. It is the framework which illuminates how the Government assigns value to human life – including in a racialised manner.
Less than a week ago, the Nationality and Borders Bill passed its third and final reading in the House of Commons. 298 MPs voted for the Bill while 231 voted against it. The Bill has now progressed to the House of Lords where it will go through its final stages of approval.
A petition on the Government website, titled Remove Clause 9 from the Nationality and Borders Bill has received almost a quarter of a million signatures at time of writing, and is accessible to sign here.
By Phoebe Fraser