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Proposed powers to strip people of citizenship without warning would be ‘unconstitutional,’ lawyers warn

LEADING immigration lawyers have warned that powers proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill to strip people of their citizenship without warning would be “unconstitutional.” 

In a legal opinion commissioned from law firm Leigh Day, barristers also deemed the new powers to be “exorbitant and ill-defined.”

The proposals would allow Home Secretary Priti Patel to revoke a person’s citizenship without notice, as well as making past deprivation decisions lawful where they were found to be illegal due to failure to provide warning. 

The opinion, published today, was authored by Raza Husain QC and Eleanor Mitchell of Matrix Chambers and Jason Pobjoy of Blackstone Chambers, and commissioned by advocacy group Cage and the Good Law Project. 

It also warns that the provision, detailed at clause 9 in the Borders Bill, would disproportionately affect ethnic minorities.                                

“This is two-tier citizenship in action, and why the Bill must be challenged,” Cage managing director Muhammad Rabbani said.

“Citizenship is a right we must all enjoy equally.”

Good Law Project director Jo Maugham said: “Citizenship, the High Court has said, gives a ‘sense of identity and belonging.’

“Even the prospect of its removal constrains enjoyment of the normal incidents of life for affected people.

“Whatever their intent, provisions which make it easier to remove the contingent citizenship held by large numbers of black and brown people are racist in effect.”

The legal opinion argues that the proposals to strip people of their citizenship without notice is “inconsistent with constitutional principle” and use of the power would likely result in “serious breaches” of human rights. 

It notes that even without clause 9, Britain already has “significantly more power to deprive an individual of their citizenship than any other G20 country.” 

At least 441 people have had their citizenship revoked since 2011, with 104 of these cases taking place in 2017 alone. The lawyers warn that clause 9 “has the potential significantly to increase the use of this power.”

A Home Office spokesperson said deprivation powers have existed in Britain for over a century and that there were “inaccurate interpretations” being reported about the proposals.

“This change in the Bill is simply about the process of notification and recognises that in exceptional circumstances, such as when someone is in a war zone, or informing them would reveal sensitive intelligence sources, it may not be possible to do this,” they added. 

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