The Home Office’s battle to strip people of their British citizenship without giving proper notice is unlawful, The Court of Appeal has ruled.
The decision comes after a woman, known as D4, allegedly joined ISIS in Syria and did not discover her British citizenship was taken away for 10 months, according to The Independent.
The woman, who currently lives in the same Syrian camp as Shamima Begum, had the decision to remove her nationality ruled “void” because she was not announced – but the Home Office appealed the High Court’s ruling.
In a judgment released today, Lady Justice Whipple said: “There may be good policy reasons for empowering the home secretary to deprive a person of citizenship without giving notice, but such a step is not lawful under this legislation.
“If the government wishes to empower the secretary in that way, it must persuade parliament to amend the primary legislation. That is what it is currently seeking to do under the Nationality and Borders Bill… it is for parliament to decide.”
She added parliamentarians who brought in the original 1981 British Nationality Act “deliberately structured the process for depriving someone of their citizenship to include minimum safeguards for the individual”.
Now, the Home Office is seeking to appeal the Court of Appeal judgment at the Supreme Court.
The Nationality and Borders Bill is currently considered by parliament, and could remove the need to notify British citizens that they are deprived of their nationality if the Home Secretary “does not have the information needed to give notice”, it would “not be reasonably practicable” or was not in the interests of national security or “of the relationship between the UK and another country”.
‘Affront to British principle of justice and fairness’
Maya Foa, director at the legal charity Reprieve, urged ministers to reconsider proposed changes to citizenship law: “Ministers should change course and recognise that depriving people of their citizenship without even telling them is an affront to British principles of justice and fairness.”
Currently, the law says that the government has to give people written notice that they are being deprived of their British citizenship, by giving them reasons and letting them know about their rights of appealing the decision.
Under rules brought in in 2018, the Home Office considers they notified people about the decision if they made a government record of it.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government will not apologise for removing the citizenship of terrorists, those involved in serious and organised crime and those who seek to do us harm.
“Citizenship deprivation only happens after very careful consideration of the facts and in accordance with international law. Each case is assessed individually on its own merits and always comes with the right to appeal.”