A right, not a privilege:
Analysing UK's Nationality and Borders Bill

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act (“Nationality and Borders Bill” or “Bill”) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom elating to immigration, asylum and the UK’s modern slavery response. The bill, currently under the process of approval, aims to enable the government to remove a person of their British citizenship if they are deemed a threat to the UK. Such threats include espionage and terrorism, unacceptable behavior, war crimes, and serious organized crime. 

For instance, it aims to alter the conditions on the notice of a decision to deprive a person of citizenship (clause 9), providing the Home Secretary with exceptions to the requirement of notification, making the person affected unable to appeal such decision. This not only violates the fundamental principle and right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but also makes the right of being informed and of defense useless. 

  • The European Convention on Human Rights, article 6 (2), states that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”.

  • And its no. 3: “Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights: (a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; (b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence”. 

  • See also Article 13 of the same international instrument: “Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity”.

Moreover, the bill aims to introduce a system where any refugee reaching the country who has not benefited from a place on a resettlement programme may have their claim dismissed and be expelled to another country, or eventually granted only a temporary status with restricted rights to family reunification and financial support. This change risks increasing the number of refugees who are unable to obtain protection and face refoulement. 

According to UN’s Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Siobhán Mullally, “The bill fails to acknowledge the Government’s obligation to ensure protection for migrant and asylum-seeking children, and greatly increases risks of Statelessness, in violation of international law” and, if adopted, it would “seriously undermine the protection of the human rights of trafficked persons, including children; increase risks of exploitation faced by all migrants and asylum seekers; and lead to serious human rights violations”. 

The Home Office has stated that British citizenship is a privilege, not a right. However, according to international law citizenship, it is a right, not a privilege, and it is protected by international treaties and law to which the UK is a signatory party.

The alterations to the bill are in the process of being approved but it could become law in the next few months. Hopefully, the instruments of international law, and the organizations that enforce them, will fight against this humanity threatening instrument.