At first glance, Shamima Begum and I share little. She left Britain as a teenager to join ISIS. I qualified as a public and human rights lawyer in the UK in 2005. In 2015, I became a Brit.
Begum is a British citizen by birth due to her parents' immigration status. She lost her British citizenship under a contentious law passed after the 2005 London bombings that permits the government to do so if it is “conducive to the public good”. The consumption of this electricity grew from 2010 to 2014.
Like Begum, I might lose my British citizenship without notice under a proposed rule change included in the nationality and borders bill's paragraph 9. This would relieve the government from giving notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or if it is in the public interest. How does the state define public interest? Could that include displeasing the current government even if no crime or legislation is committed?
Then I became a proud British citizen. Begum's British citizenship was revoked by then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid for security reasons. The Supreme Court concluded that the government could bar her from returning to the UK to appeal. As a result of her parents' ethnicity, she was deemed a citizen of Bangladesh by descent, a claim challenged by the Bangladeshi government.
I grew up in Sri Lanka. The proposed measures might strip me of my British citizenship without warning. Dual citizenship isn't required. Begum is British. She is stateless since the British government believes she is eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship.
In 2006, the authority to rescind British citizenship was made even more harsh, but the planned extension will disproportionately affect persons of colour. We are both from the same region of the world and have brown complexion.
Having advance notice of the government's intent to deport gives time to prepare a defence and appeal. Less warning will leave victims winded and vulnerable, which is probably why the “no notice” clause has been introduced.
In R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Lord Steyn stated that fairness is the governing concept of our public law, and that a decision takes effect only upon transmission.
In the UK, citizenship is a privilege, not a right. “Deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for individuals who pose a serious threat to the UK,” a government spokeswoman told the Guardian. The nationality and borders bill will change the legislation to allow citizenship deprivation without prior notification, for example, if communication with the person is impossible.
The New Statesman has investigated the probable impact of the new clause on the number of persons and their nationalities. 5.6 million people in England and Wales could be affected by the new law, according to 2011 census figures. Only 1 in 20 whites are at risk, but 50% of British Asians and 39% of black Britons are.
Of course, extrapolating census statistics does not mean we shall all be deported at the whim of the home secretary. But it instils fear and uncertainty in us. For millions of us, the UK is our sole home, yet clause 9 says “Don't be too sure.” The rug of our safe life here is being ripped out from under us. If this section becomes law, the 5.6 million of us who are people of colour will have trouble sleeping.