Nationality and Borders Bill could disproportionately affect British Muslims

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Over half of all British Muslims in the UK could now have their citizenship stripped without warning

With the Nationality and Borders Bill passing through parliament last week, British Citizens in the United Kingdom could be stripped of their citizenship without warning. The proposed changes are set to disproportionately impact Muslims living in the UK even further.

Why is this new clause concerning?

Stripping of British citizenship is nothing new. Modern powers that allow for citizenship deprivation can be traced back to the British Nationality Act of 1981.

These have been succeeded by a number of post-2000 laws, including the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and the Immigration Act 2014.

The 1981 Act outlined the boundaries of British Citizenship, and Section 40 of the Act included conditions under which the Secretary of State could deprive citizenship to non-birth citizens – i.e. those who had British citizenship due to naturalisation or registration.

The subsequent laws lowered the threshold to allow for citizenship deprivation whilst expanding the reach of citizenship stripping powers to include British citizens who had been born in Britain.

Under the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill this is taken one step further. By implementing ‘Clause 9’, the Home Secretary would be exempt from issuing written notice of citizenship deprivation to the person in question – meaning current British citizens could potentially have their citizenship stripped without any prior warning.

What do the numbers tell us?

From the UK 2011 Census, and the Muslim in Numbers report, almost 1.5million Muslims that live in the UK were born elsewhere. With the New Statesman finding that 5.6million people in England and Wales are likely to be eligible for deprivation of citizenship, we can conclude that Muslims would represent over a quarter of those at risk. Despite only being 5% of the entire UK population, Muslims are 5 times more represented.

By extrapolating ethnicity data, collated by The New Statesman, to include the Muslim populations, it’s clear that an overwhelming majority of Muslims from particular ethnicities face the possibility of having their citizenship stripped.

For example, it is reported that 369,000 British Bangladeshis could face citizenship deprivation. With Muslims making up 90% of this demographic, it is estimated that 332,910 Muslim British Bangladeshis could face having their citizenship stripped. With an overall population of 402,428, this means that 83% of Muslim British Bangladeshis will fall within this group.

Other ethnicities that have an alarming majority falling within this category are the British Muslim populations of Somalis and Nigerians. For the many ethnicities not detailed, the lack of data prevents us from further analysis.

Muslim Census opposes the amendment to extend the Home Secretary’s citizenship deprivation powers. Muslim Census also opposes the powers awarded since the British Nationality Act of 1981.

Is there a pushback?

There is no doubt that this citizenship deprivation practice disproportionately affects Muslims, minorities and those of a migrant heritage.

Yet, the government’s infringement of liberal democracy, human rights and fairness has not fallen on deaf ears. A petition against the newly-added Clause 9 has gathered more than 250,000 signatures, a level at which Parliament would consider a debate on the topic.

Moreover, leading barristers, activists and MPs across the country have come together to openly denounce and challenge the government in what has been called the “bigg[est] national coalition than ever seen before”. The UK’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) and the Refugee Convention have also held the government to account, citing incompatibility and violation of human rights law.

We know that change comes under public pressure and our work at Muslim Census will continue to tackle Islamophobic narratives, ensure the voices and spirits of Muslim communities are accurately represented and that, above all, the rights of Muslims are protected.

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