U.K. Immigration Bill Threatens Millions Of Ethnic Minority Britons’ #Citizenship Rights

More on the implications of the draft legislation:

A bill to dramatically reform the U.K.’s immigration system is currently under consideration in the country’s parliament. Within the bill is a clause that could cause the grave deprivation of the citizenship rights of minority-ethnic Britons.

The Nationality and Borders Bill was introduced by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is responsible for immigration in the U.K. Commonly referred to as the ‘anti-refugee’ bill, it has generated considerable controversy among immigration lawyers, experts and activists for its sweeping changes to the immigration rules, many of which would make the process of seeking asylum in the U.K. considerably more difficult and dangerous.

Less well known than the asylum part of the bill, however, is a clause that would give the Home Office greater powers to strip Britons of their citizenship, without warning or notice. The Home Office does already have the power to remove citizenship, for a variety of reasons, and has done so several hundred times in the last few decades.

Perhaps most well known of these are the cases of U.K.-born Shamima Begum and Jack Letts. Both were stripped of their British citizenship after travelling to Syria, allegedly to join ISIS. British law, as well as multiple international human rights conventions, prohibit rendering someone stateless. This was not an issue in Letts’ case, as he already possessed Canadian citizenship through his father, and therefore would not be made stateless by losing his British citizenship.

Begum’s case was more complicated, however. Born in the U.K. to Bangladeshi parents, Begum had only British citizenship. Nonetheless, the U.K. government argued she could gain Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents, despite Bangladesh’s assertion that she did not have Bangladeshi citizenship, would be denied it if she applied, and would be refused entry into the country.

In effect Begum was vulnerable to being made stateless simply because she had an identifiable minority ethnic background. This episode revealed that people born to first-, second-, or even third-generation immigrants do not enjoy the same security of citizenship as those with longer roots in the country. Such a situation in essence creates two classes of citizenship. People with ethnic minority backgrounds can be stripped of their citizenship under the auspices of maybe being eligible for citizenship elsewhere, while white ethnic Britons’ citizenship rights remain intact.

Clause 9 of the new Nationality and Borders bill aggravates this situation by making the process opaque to those who are affected by it. It would give the government the right to strip Britons of their citizenship without giving them notice. This means someone may become stateless without even knowing it, and miss the opportunity to appeal their deprivation.

There are around six million people in the U.K. with an ethnic minority background that could, should the Nationality and Borders Bill become law, be rendered stateless without their even knowing it.

“I received my British citizenship last summer, after almost 14 years of being an asylum seeker & refugee” wrote one prominent refugee advocate on Twitter. “But now due to the (Nationality and Borders Bill) I am not safe, the Home Secretary can revoke & take it away at her discretion.”

A plethora of legal experts, NGOs, activists and campaign groups have urged the government to drop Clause 9. They argue that without notification or knowledge that they need to appeal a citizenship deprivation, millions of ethnic minority Britons could be made stateless under the spurious claim that they may be eligible for another citizenship elsewhere.

“(Clause 9) is a very damaging piece of legislation which I hope, as the bill goes through its various stages, will be eliminated” said Alf Dubs, a member of the U.K.’s House of Lords and former child refugee while speaking with IMIX. “We cannot allow people to be made stateless. Surely citizenship is our right and not a privilege, and that’s something we have to defend very firmly.”

An official petition on the government website to remove the clause received over 300,000 signatures, well past the threshold where the government is obliged to respond. The response, however, was steadfast.

“This clause is (…) necessary to avoid the situation where we could never deprive a person of their British citizenship just because it is not practicable, or not possible, to communicate with them” reads the Home Office reply. “Preserving the ability to make decisions in this way is vitally important to preserve the integrity of the U.K. immigration system and to protect the security of the U.K. from those who would wish to do us harm.”

The Home Office asserts Clause 9 will not affect a person’s right to appeal their citizenship deprivation. There is, however, a contradiction inherent in that statement, neatly summed up by Dan Sohege, a specialist in international refugee law:

“How exactly can someone appeal the removal of their citizenship if they don’t know that their citizenship has been removed?”

Source: U.K. Immigration Bill Threatens Millions Of Ethnic Minority Britons’ Citizenship Rights

Chakrabarti and Woolley: The UK nationality bill makes it clear: some British citizens are more equal than others

More opposition to the proposed changes:

As longstanding human rights campaigners, we are both well acquainted with the harsh realities of inequality and injustice in modern Britain. But the government’s nationality and borders bill– which will be in the committee stage at the House of Lords for the next two weeks – feels like a very personal insult. This is because it lays bare an uncomfortable and usually unspoken truth: that people like us, born in Britain but with foreign-born parents, are second-class citizens.

We are talking about the bill’s provision to strengthen the government’s ability to deprive people of citizenship – a profound exercise of state power. Currently, the home secretary has the power to do this if they determine it is “conducive to the public good” and if they believe the person being deprived is eligible for the citizenship of another country. This last condition has been estimated to be applicable to several million people.

Hundreds of formerly British citizens, especially from ethnic minorities, have already been stripped of their citizenship in the past 15 years. But Boris Johnson’s government wants to go even further. Clause 9 of this generally poisonous bill would give ministers the ability to remove our British citizenship without even telling us. This would severely affect the right of appeal; contesting government decisions needs to be done in a timely and effective way, but how would this be possible if you don’t know that the decision has been made? It seems the government is saying, if we take your citizenship, you’ve lost it. Period.

This is why we have come together, as members of the House of Lords, to oppose the government’s plans and will be supporting an amendment removing clause 9 in committee stage, along with other amendments to restrict already draconian citizenship removal powers.

Why does clause 9 feel so personal? Because it seems to say that no matter that this is the only country we’ve ever lived in; no matter that our life’s work has been to make our nation fairer; no matter that we are both peers of the realm because of this work; no matter that our ancestors gave their lives in two world wars: our citizenship is precarious and conditional in a way that isn’t the case for many others. It can be stripped away by the government of the day.

For those pushing through this bill, the history of Commonwealth migration of British citizens to the UK counts for nothing. Simon’s mother arrived in the late 1950s to give her best years to the recently formed NHS. Soon afterwards, the then health minister Enoch Powell (before he became an overt racist) flew to Barbados to call on British overseas citizens to come to the UK and support the NHS: thousands responded to that call. In that same era, Shami’s parents came from Kolkata to London. Years of race discrimination and even physical attacks never deterred them.

In a House of Lords debate on the bill this month, peers spoke about the hundreds of thousands from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia who fought for Britain in two world wars, believing they were part of a wider family. They believed they had earned the right for their children and grandchildren to be treated as equals. It seems they were wrong.

And this is not just an argument about morality: because when you have a second class, precarious version of citizenship it becomes open to political interpretation – as we have tragically seen in recent years. Everyone now accepts that the Windrush scandal – which saw legitimate British citizens denied healthcare and benefits, or hounded out of their country and left to die impoverished in places they had left as toddlers – is a stain on this country. So why are hundreds of British citizens still being stripped of their citizenship? Just recently a British-born man with Bangladeshi heritage had his citizenship removed and spent four years challenging the decision. He is now on his way back to the UK after winning his appeal.

What the Windrush scandal and other cases show is that governments make a lot of mistakes. The idea that a “good British citizen” – particularly those from the most affected groups of Black and Asian people – can be safe and secure is frankly fanciful. Rather than continuing to erode fundamental rights, the government should be trying to strengthen security and belonging for everyone. That also goes for other parts of the bill, which trash even the 1951 refugee convention by treating the most desperate, who escape persecution by clandestine means, as second-class asylum seekers.

This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. When the Conservative Lord Moylan spoke passionately about witnessing citizenship ceremonies as wonderful celebrations of belonging, he said: “My conception of British nationality is much more profound than a mere travel document. It is – or should be – a permanent and reciprocal bond of loyalty on the one hand and protection on the other … we should be building up and strengthening the bond between citizen and nation, whereas it seems to me that this provision goes only to dissolve it further.”

He is right, of course. Millions of people in this country, whose passport photos show faces that are not white, are vulnerable to structural racism – including when turbo-charged by broad powers of citizenship deprivation. The thought of citizenship being stripped without notice will only create fear and alienation, and do nothing to bring the people of this nation closer together.

  • Shami Chakrabarti was shadow attorney general for England and Wales from 2016 to 2020, and was director of Liberty from 2003 to 2016. Simon Woolley is the director of Operation Black Vote. He was chair of the No 10 race disparity unit until July 2020

Source: The nationality bill makes it clear: some British citizens are more equal than others

How you can buy a British passport—the dangerous commodification of citizenship

Of note:

Last week, the UK Nationality and Borders Bill passed in the Commons. The Bill gave the home secretary Priti Patel the power to strip British people with dual nationality or born abroad of their citizenship without needing to warn them first. Three thousand miles away, in a conference centre in Dubai, a collection of lawyers, wealth managers, immigration experts and High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) were selling and shopping for visas and passports. The event hosted “the right advisers and government contacts” to help applicants “get ahead in life in countries such as Canada, USA, UK, Spain, Greece, Germany, Bulgaria,” including promising to hand-hold applicants through the UK’s investor visa process, where a £2m investment can be exchanged for long-term residency. Both events are representative of shifting currents in global citizenship. But who gets citizenship—and why? Who gets to keep it—and who doesn’t?

The commodification of citizenship began in the 1980s. When the Caribbean islands of St Kitts & Nevis attained independence from Britain, the economy was hindered by a colonial-era reliance on sugar exports. Selling citizenship represented a perfect economic opportunity. An existing resource with apparently unlimited supply, low overheads and limited human capital requirements, selling passports could deliver a direct injection of cash for the government. At $150,000 for a family of four, with no obligation to live or even visit the islands, the passports include access to tax-free income and visa-free travel to over 130 countries. For St Kitts and its customers alike—a diverse group of wealthy investors largely from developing countries from which travel is restricted—there seemed to be few downsides, besides potential displeasure from other countries.

At first, uptake was slow. But after a dramatic slashing of the EU import price for sugar in 2006, the Kittitian government enlisted the help of Henley & Partners, a London law firm, to give the programme a boost. Their influence was profound. In the following eight years, the percentage of St Kitts GDP derived from the citizenship-by-investment (or “CBI”) programme jumped from 1 to 25 per cent. Today, CBI is a booming international industry worth an estimated $3bn.

In short, St Kitts commodified citizenship, and Henley commercialised it. Now operated by around 100 countries around the world, CBI programmes offer a passport or residency permit in exchange for a one-time payment or a hefty real estate investment. Prices range from $130,000 for a single applicant (Vanuatu) to several millions (the UK) to schemes about which little public information is available (Switzerland, Austria). The innovation of CBI is in bypassing the linguistic, cultural or employment-related migration requirements usually tightly enforced by governments when the person involved isn’t incredibly rich. It has also spawned an entire industry. Search “citizenship by investment” on Google and a slew of adverts for agents, lawyers, due diligence firms and advisers appear, all hungry for their share of the application fee. There are even CBI influencers: Nomad Capitalist, a YouTube channel, garners millions of views each year for videos with titles like “12 Second Residence Permits with a Simple Bank Deposit.”

Source: How you can buy a British passport—the dangerous commodification of citizenship

Priti Patel’s immigration bill will make it harder to prosecute human traffickers, top police officers warn

Police warnings of note:

Priti Patel’s immigration bill risks hampering the prosecution of human traffickers in the UK and making it more difficult for people to escape exploitation, senior police officers have warned.

Cross-party MPs, including two former Tory leaders, and the country’s leading prosecutor in trafficking cases, have also criticised the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently going through parliament, saying it will “water down” vital protections for modern slavery victims.

The bill includes a number of changes to modern slavery support, which the home secretary says will prevent people from being able to “frustrate immigration action” by disclosing late in the process that they have suffered abuse.

It would mean any victim who has been sentenced to prison for more than 12 months anywhere in the world would be disqualified from modern slavery support in the UK, and that survivors would be given a defined period to disclose the abuse they have suffered.

Senior police officers have warned that it can often take a considerable amount of time for trafficking survivors to disclose their exploitation, meaning reducing the time they are given could hinder prosecutions.

Source: Priti Patel’s immigration bill will make it harder to prosecute human traffickers, top police officers warn

Political Storm Swirls Around Britain’s Refugee Surge

Of note:

Some held their hands aloft in celebration; others simply slumped to the ground in the 24°C heat, exhausted from the ordeal they’d just endured.

That was the scene on the south coast of England this week, when at least 430 migrants — including infants too young to walk — made landfall. They had braved the 20-mile crossing from either France or Belgium, navigating the world’s busiest shipping lane aboard flimsy inflatable boats.

Meanwhile, 70 miles away in Westminster, the fate of those who’ll arrive in the months and years ahead was being aired, as UK lawmakers debated the government’s planned reform of refugee policy.

Undocumented migration is a convulsive political issue in post-Brexit Britain. Departure from Europe was sold as a chance to buttress the country’s creaking borders — yet, since the start of the year, some 8,000 people have reached British soil with the help of boat-borne smugglers. Monday’s surge represented the highest number of arrivals on record, with 2020’s total of 8,417 likely to be topped in the coming weeks.

Addressing this is the job of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, a divisive politician who’s pinned her reputation on stemming the flow of refugees.

She is the brains behind the ‘Nationality and Borders Bill’ — legislation that will make it a criminal offence to enter the country without permission, with a penalty of up to four years in prison. It also raises the prospect of a new overseas detention scheme, in which asylum-seekers could be sent to a “safe third country” while their claims are considered. Thus far, no third-party nation has agreed to participate.

It would be a firm but fair system, Patel says, designed to deter vulnerable people from placing their lives in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers. Instead of crossing to the UK, asylum applications should be made wherever in Europe refugees first find themselves, the government argues.

It’s a legally dubious position. Though, under European law, migrants should have their claims processed in the jurisdiction of their arrival, the 1951 UN Refugee Convention makes clear that asylum-seekers must face no legal discrimination, and suggests that their unlawful entry to a country shouldn’t result in prosecution.

And there’s another, more human consideration that critics say must be accounted for: that no amount of securitisation will deter needy people enticed by the UK’s reputation for defending human rights, offering legal protection to those in direst need, upholding the rule of law, and celebrating — not condemning — multiculturalism .

That is why migrants have always been drawn to British shores, often in far, far greater numbers than those seen today. (Arrivals topped 100,000 per year in the early 2000s).

The difference now, partly thanks to COVID-19 shutting rail and road migration routes, is that their arrival is a more visible, maritime spectacle. Headlines are hard for politicians, but photos of foreigners wading ashore is a whole different level. Coupled with a bureaucratic meltdown at the Home Office — the number of asylum-seekers awaiting a decision has doubled since 2014 — it’s little surprise the British government is coming down hard.

The truth, however, is that the UK’s refugee situation is far less onerous than it is for its nearest neighbours. Britain ranks 17th out of 28 European countries in terms of asylum applications, with around a third of those confronting authorities in France and Germany.

Such stats obscure the human story. That every one is a person, often vulnerable and fleeing persecution or poverty, willing to risk it all for a better, brighter future.

Source: Political Storm Swirls Around Britain’s Refugee Surge