Law threatens ethnic minorities’ rights by giving Home Office ‘blanket’ power to revoke citizenship, says joint letter.
Over 100 British organizations from across the country wrote an open letter to the House of Lords in parliament on Wednesday opposing controversial legislation known as the Nationality and Borders Bill, asserting that it threatens to undermine the rights of ethnic minorities in the UK.
In the letter, they called for an amendment to protect the rights of ethnic minority citizens in Britain and to ensure that their status as nationals is not threatened by the Home Office’s “blanket” power, which they claim is for security reasons.
“We are appalled that 298 of our elected Members of Parliament voted for the Bill in its current form without considering the implications that the Bill, in its current form, will inadvertently have by creating a two-tier citizenship where the ‘brown’ or ‘black’ man or woman will be subject to the whims of the Home Secretary of the day without any legal oversight whatsoever,” the letter said.
“There are no safety measures contained in the Bill for a citizen-facing the ultimate draconian measure as that of the deprivation of their citizenship despite the reassurances given by the Government,” the letter added, noting the bill’s removal of notice requirements for the government to remove a person from citizenship.
The organizations accused the government of undermining judicial independence by expanding the powers of the Home Office, which it said has increasingly restricted individuals’ rights and liberties in the last 20 years by revoking their citizenship and removing them from the UK. Such powers, they argue, will be abused under the guise of protection.
If passed into law, the bill will discriminate against ethnic minority citizens of the UK, according to the letter, particularly those who are not born in the country but acquired citizenship via naturalization.
“The key structure of any functioning democracy is that of an independent judiciary, however, it is with dismay that we now see our rights and liberties being slowly restricted by the current Government.
“Where once the power to remove citizenship by a Home Secretary was used against individuals connected to terrorist-related activities, we now see the current Government seeking to expand those powers to removing citizenship where the Home Secretary considers that it is in ‘conducive to the public good,’” it added.
The proposed Nationality and Borders Bill will give the Home Office the power to strip people of their citizenship if they are deemed a “threat” to the UK. Such threats include espionage and terrorism, unacceptable behavior and the “glorification” of terrorism, war crimes, and serious organized crime.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the bill makes the immigration system fairer and more effective by tackling illegal immigration and the “underlying pull factors into the UK’s asylum system,” as well as expelling those who have no right to be in the country.
The organizations, however, have argued that the term “unacceptable behavior” is open to interpretation and can thus be exploited and abused to include anyone, regardless of whether or not they pose a genuine threat to the UK. Such an act will have major ramifications for the UK justice system as well as the families affected, it said.
“We respectfully request that the Bill is amended to ensure that the rights of ethnic minority citizens are not curtailed under the ‘blanket’ policy so that individuals from minority backgrounds are not treated differently as this would be a miscarriage of justice and cause great harm to communities living here in the UK.”
Signatories to the letter include Sir Iqbal Sacranie, founder of the Muslim Council of Britain, Salman Butt of the Muslim media network Islam21C, Raghad Altikriti of the Muslim Association of Britain, the leadership of the Newham Socialist Labour Party, Ron Waugh of the UNITE trade union, the Jewish Voice for Labour, Anas Altikriti of the Cordoba Foundation and the University College London.
The legislation will be debated and voted on in its current form in the House of Lords on Wednesday in its second reading. If the legislation is approved by the lords, it will become law.
Alfred Dubs of the House of Lords, in an interview with Anadolu Agency in October, had said the bill might be defeated in the later stages of its legislation.