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Latest 18 January 2022

The Nationality and Borders Bill is racist – we want Government to think again

Today, we are publishing advice about the extension to the powers to strip Britons of their citizenship in the Nationality and Borders Bill. The advice was commissioned from some of the country’s leading immigration barristers, Raza Husain QC, Jason Pobjoy and Eleanor Mitchell, instructed by Leigh Day solicitors. We worked with Media Diversified and CAGE to commission it. 

The advice is conclusive, and alarming: 

  • “Clause 9, as presently framed, confers upon the Secretary of State an exorbitant, ill-defined and unconstitutional power to make a deprivation order without notice.”
  • The new powers are “identified in terms so broad and vague that, and on their face, they do very little to constrain the exercise of the Secretary of State’s discretion”. 
  • “Exercise of the deprivation power has a disproportionate impact on non-white British citizens”.  
  • Even without Clause 9, “the United Kingdom already has significantly more power to deprive an individual of their citizenship than any other G20 country.”
  • It describes the Clause 9 removal of the right to notice, by analogy, as “astonishingly unjust.”

We share the concerns expressed by a wide range of civil society groups about what Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill means. The provisions will affect the citizenship of almost half of all Asian British people and two in five Black Britons. 

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Media Diversified told us: “Up to six million people will live in fear that one wrong move, even just one unforced error or car accident could see us arrested, judged in secret and deported. This targeted, racist legislation is an existential threat to all our loved ones, neighbours, and colleagues.”

Muhammad Rabbani, CAGE Managing Director, said: “The legal opinion outlines that citizenship deprivation overwhelmingly and disproportionately impacts minorities. This is two tier citizenship in action, and why the Bill must be challenged. Citizenship is a right we must all enjoy equally.”

We hope this legal analysis informs the debate in the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It notes Hannah Arendt’s oft-quoted observation that citizenship is “the right to have rights”, and contrasts it with the troubling rhetoric recently adopted by the Home Office that “British citizenship is a privilege not a right”. 

Whatever the Government’s intent, provisions which make it easier to remove the contingent citizenship held by large numbers of black and brown people are racist in effect. We are inviting the Government to reflect on whether it wishes to embed racism in our legislation.

You can read the full legal advice from Raza Husain, Jason Pobjoy and Eleanor Mitchell here

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Media Diversified is a non-profit working to enrich, engage and improve the UK’s media landscape. The organisation was founded in 2013 with a mission to challenge the homogeneity of voices in UK news media, through addressing the under-representation of BAME communities.

CAGE is an independent grassroots organisation striving for a world free of injustice and oppression. They campaign against discriminatory state policies and advocate for due process and the rule of law.