In 2015 Home Secretary Theresa May deprived five people of their British citizenship on terror related grounds, according to new figures obtained by the Bureau.
In total May has stripped 33 individuals of British nationality on these grounds since becoming Home Secretary in 2010. All of the individuals were dual nationals.
May can strip a person of citizenship without prior approval from a judge or parliament, and the individual’s only recourse is to quickly launch a long and costly appeal in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a specialist court in London which deals with evidence deemed so sensitive to national security that it is heard in secret.
The Bureau has been tracking the Government’s use of citizenship stripping for more than three years, and these new figures come following a 16-month freedom of information battle with the Home Office.
Most of the individuals the Bureau has identified were deprived of citizenship while abroad. This effectively excludes them from the country – in fact, May often signs an exclusion order at the same time as the deprivation order – so forcing them to appeal against May’s decision from countries like Sudan and Pakistan, from where communication with their lawyers can be difficult.
All 33 individuals were deprived of their citizenship because it was ‘conducive to the public good’ to do so. This usually means the person is suspected of terror related activity, but can also include people suspected of espionage and war crimes.
May can also strip someone of their British citizenship if they obtained it by way of fraud or lying – since 2010, 37 individuals have been deprived on these grounds. In total, 70 people have been stripped of their British citizenship under May, all of them dual nationals.
However, since 2014 and the new Immigration Act, there is now a third way in which May can strip someone of citizenship – foreign born Britons, who hold only British nationality, can now be stripped of their citizenship if they gained it by naturalisation and May is satisfied they have behaved in a way that is “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom”. In this scenario, the individual can be left stateless if the Home Secretary “reasonably believes” they could become a national of another country.
According to David Anderson QC, the UK’s independent reviewer of terror legislation, this new citizenship stripping power was not used once between July 2014 and July 2015.