HHUGS Statement on Deprivation of Citizenship
HHUGS welcomes the courageous stance taken by the House of Lords to reject Theresa May's efforts to introduce a law allowing the government to strip individuals of their citizenship even if it were to leave them stateless. Almost 70 years ago, the US Supreme Court recognised the brutality of such measures when it ruled that statelessness was a “form of punishment more primitive than torture". Yet, the motion passed through the House of Commons with less than an hour of debate and with just 34 dissenting voices.
Such moves would have a devastating impact on many of the families who are beneficiaries of HHUGS', who already struggle to cope with day to day life due to the stigma of being associated with a terror suspect.
The current test for whether the Home Secretary can deprive someone’s citizenship is whether she believes their presence in the UK is ‘not conducive to the public good’. Under the new laws she will be able to make someone stateless if she believes their presence is ‘seriously prejudicial to the vital interests’ of the UK. Neither of those explicitly mention terrorism, and they are broad enough that they could be applied to all sorts of behaviour that the government deems undesirable.
The practical effects of statelessness are severe. Obstacles include the denial of opportunities to establish a legal residence, travel, work in the formal economy, send children to school, access basic health services, purchase or own property, vote, hold elected office, and most importantly enjoy the protection of a country. It is effectively to quote Hannah Arendt, to remove the right to have rights.