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Politics

Plans to remove British citizenship without notice ‘would repeat Windrush mistakes’

Campaigners have warned the government’s proposed changes to the borders bill are “cruel and farcical”.

Government plans that could see people stripped of their British citizenship without notice would repeat the mistakes of the Windrush scandal, campaigners have warned.

Proposed rule changes to the new Nationality and Borders Bill would allow the government to remove citizenship without notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or in the public interest.

Campaigners have warned that the plans are “cruel and farcical”, and that the government is showing a “total disregard for international law”.

The Home Office has been able to remove citizenship since 2005, and most notably used the powers in the case of Shamima Begum. In a statement responding to reports, a Home Office spokesperson said “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right”.

Calling on the government to drop the bill, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said: “These clauses show what a dangerous bill this is. Giving the Home Office powers to strip people of their British citizenship without so much as telling them shows this government’s total disregard for international law and their refusal to learn from past failures.

“Just like the legislation that caused the Windrush Scandal, there’s nothing to stop this being used more widely. It puts naturalised citizens and the children of naturalised citizens at risk, which is likely to disproportionately affect people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.”

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The Runnymede Trust, a racial equality think tank, warned the clause could have a dire impact and called the Home Office statement “chilling”.

“It sets the precedent that someone’s passport can be removed on good or bad behaviour, with the underlying assumption that it can only be taken away from non-white people,” a spokesperson told The Big Issue.

“The precedent this clause could set has dire implications for everyone, but in particular for Black and ethnic minority Britons. This will directly affect those who are under threat from hostile environment policies, including those who are not given the right to a fair trial and those vulnerable to deportation.”

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The government is facing a fight over plans to send asylum seekers to other countries. Tory MP David Davis has tabled an amendment seeking to deny the government powers to “offshore” asylum seekers.

A similar system of offshore facilities run by the Australian government, which sends asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea, costs over £2 million per person per year, Detention Action director Bella Sankey said.

The UK’s plans are thought to cost £100,00 per person – with The Times reporting this figure to be 10 times more than the cost of processing asylum seekers in the UK.

The Times on Thursday reported that the government plans to send migrants crossing the channel to Albania while their claims are processed, but Albanian officials hit back at the reports as “fake news”.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab did not deny talks were taking place, telling Times Radio the government was “looking at international partnerships” to reduce the “pull factor”.

The government has been accused of “peddling lies about cruel and farcical asylum deals” in the wake of the denials. Minnie Rahman, interim chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told The Big Issue: “We need an asylum system that grants people safe routes here, a fair hearing, and the chance to get on with their lives.

“Our government should know as well as Albania’s does that these camps are places of neglect and cruelty, and have no place in our asylum system.”

Ribeiro-Addy said the plans to process asylum seekers offshore are a “reminder that the Hostile Environment is a very expensive way of playing divide and rule”.

The Home Office said: “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right. Deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill will amend the law so citizenship can be deprived where it is not practicable to give notice, for example if there is no way of communicating with the person.”

The Home Office spokesperson added: “Migrants making these dangerous crossings are putting their lives at risk and it is vital we do everything we can to prevent them and break the business model of the criminal gangs exploiting people.

“People should claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in, and as part of our response it is important we have a maritime deterrent in the channel and work with international partners to put an end to these dangerous journeys.”

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