February 29, 2024

At least 217 citizens were deprived of citizenship since 2003, with numbers ramping up significantly following the collapse of Daesh. (AFP)

MT Desk: Muslims in the UK are being made “second-class citizens” in the wake of government powers to strip citizenship with no notice, a new report has warned.

Published by the Institute of Race Relations on Sunday, the report warns that the Nationality and Borders Act has been used to target British Muslims.

“The message sent by the legislation on deprivation of citizenship since 2002 and its implementation largely against British Muslims of south Asian heritage is that, despite their passports, these people are not and can never be ‘true’ citizens, in the same way that ‘natives’ are,” said Frances Webber, vice chair and author of the report.

“While a ‘native’ British citizen, who has access to no other citizenship, can commit the most heinous crimes without jeopardizing his right to remain British, none of the estimated 6 million British citizens with access to another citizenship can feel confident in the perpetual nature of their citizenship.”

Before 2003, when deprivation of citizenship was used against preacher Abu Hamza, the strategy had not been used for 30 years, Webber added.

But since the Hamza case, there have been at least 217 instances of deprivation of citizenship, with numbers ramping up significantly following the collapse of Daesh.

“These classes of citizenship were brought in to target British Muslims of south Asian and Middle Eastern heritage,” said Webber.

“Such divisions act as a constant reminder to minority ethnic citizens that they must watch their step, and reinforce racist messages about ‘undeserving’ racialized groups unworthy of being British.”

The report author raised the case of Shamima Begum to criticize the “nebulous and undefined” nature of the government powers.

The UK government recently faced scrutiny after it was alleged that a Canadian spy had trafficked Begum into Syria.

Webber said: “It raises the question: Was Begum’s citizenship removed to divert attention from western agencies’ prioritization of intelligence gathering over safeguarding vulnerable trafficked girls?”

Citizenship-stripping is “just one aspect of measures targeting Muslim communities, in Britain and abroad, in the past two decades, which have helped to turn British Muslims in the UK into a ‘suspect community’.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our priority is to ensure the safety and security of the UK. Deprivation of citizenship only happens after careful consideration of the facts and in accordance with international law.

“It is used against those who have acquired citizenship by fraud and against the most dangerous people, such as terrorists, extremists and serious organized criminals.

“We make no apology for doing whatever is necessary to protect the UK from those who pose a threat to our security.”

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