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Deprivation of British citizenship and withdrawal of passport facilities

Published Friday, June 9, 2017

In recent years there has been an increasing use of powers to deprive people of their British citizenship and withdraw British passport facilities, particularly in respect of those who may be involved in fighting, extremist activity or terrorist training overseas.

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Deprivation of citizenship powers

The Home Secretary has power to deprive a person of British citizenship in any of the following scenarios:

  • She considers that deprivation of citizenship is ‘conducive to the public good’, and would not make the person stateless;
  • The person obtained his citizenship through registration or naturalisation, and the Home Secretary is satisfied that this was obtained by fraud, false representation or the concealment of a material fact;
  • The person obtained his citizenship through naturalisation, and the Home Secretary
    • considers that deprivation is conducive to the public good because the person has conducted themselves ‘in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, any of the Islands, or any British overseas territory’; and
    • has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is able to become a national of another country or territory under its laws.

In the second and third scenarios, deprivation of citizenship is permissible even if the person would be left stateless.

Recent use of deprivation powers

A Home Office Freedom of Information response in June 2016 revealed that there had been 81 deprivation of citizenship orders made in the years 2006-2015. 36 orders were made on the grounds that deprivation was conducive to the public good; 45 orders were made on the grounds that the Home Secretary was satisfied that people had used fraud or false representation to gain British citizenship by registration or naturalisation. In December 2013 the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported a significant increase in the use of deprivation powers in 2013, in part due to British citizens travelling to fight in Syria.

Withdrawal of passport facilities

British citizens are not entitled to a British passport. The passport does not confer citizenship; it is merely evidence of it. Passports are issued at the discretion of the Home Secretary under the Royal Prerogative and can be withdrawn through the use of the same discretionary power.

Appeal rights

Those who are the subject of a deprivation of citizenship order can appeal to the First Tier tribunal against the Home Secretary’s decision. Appeals must be made to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission where the Home Secretary considers that the information she relied on should not be made public.

As passports are issued at the Home Secretary’s discretion there is no right of appeal against a decision to withdraw passport facilities. However a person whose passport is withdrawn may seek a judicial review of the Home Secretary’s decision.

Implications of deprivation of citizenship

Deprivation of citizenship entails the loss of the right of abode in the UK. It makes possible the administrative (‘immigration’) detention, deportation and exclusion from the UK of the person concerned. Flowing from the loss of the right of abode are myriad associated and consequential rights, duties and opportunities.

The al-Jedda Case and the Immigration Act 2014

An annex to this briefing paper provides a summary of the al-Jedda case and of the Parliamentary and external scrutiny of the Coalition Government's legislative response to its loss in the Supreme Court.

Commons Briefing papers SN06820

Authors: Melanie Gower; Terry McGuinness

Topics: Nationality, Terrorism

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