MPs concerned by new power to make British citizens stateless

MPs have expressed significant concerns about the possible use of new powers contained in Clause 60 of the Immigration Bill to deprive naturalised UK citizens of their UK citizenship and leave them stateless.

In a Report published on 4th March 2014, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) expressed concern as to whether the Government’s main purpose in taking this power is to exercise it in relation to naturalised British citizens while they are abroad.

The Committee said the move carries a very great risk of breaching the UK’s international obligations to the State which admitted the British citizen to its territory.

JCHR recommends that the Bill be amended to make it a precondition of the making of an order by the Secretary of State that the deprivation is compatible with the UK’s obligations under international law.

Dr Hywel Francis MP, the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, said: "The UK has historically been a champion of efforts to reduce statelessness throughout the world and it is disappointing to see this position shift in such a dramatic way. The new power will lead to an increase in the number of stateless people and exposes British citizens to the risk of being left stateless.”

Just recently the Supreme Court described statelessness as an “evil”.

Dr Francis said statelessness “takes away the right to have rights. The power does not in itself put the UK in breach of any of its international obligations in relation to statelessness but it does pose the risk of breaching our international obligations to other states.”

He added that they were particularly concerned about the power being used when citizens are abroad. “Parliament needs more information about how similar powers have been used in the recent past and assurances about how this power will be used in the future. Retrospectively, the impact of this power on children and dependants, and the adequacy of safeguards against the possibly arbitrary use of this power are just some of the issues that we have raised in our Report and which the Government needs to address.”

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