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Deprivation of British Citizenship

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With Shamima Begum in the news again as she fights the government’s decision to deprive her of her British citizenship, our immigration solicitors look at the circumstances in which you can risk the loss of your British citizenship.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Lawyers and British Citizenship Solicitors 

For advice on British citizenship and immigration law call the expert London immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Revocation of British citizenship

Few people arriving to live in the UK on a family visa or work visa and who proceed to make the UK their home by applying for indefinite leave to remain, and then securing British citizenship, understand that their British citizenship could be revoked. Nor do they understand that, depending on circumstances, this could also happen to their children.

If you are thinking about applying for British citizenship it is important to understand the law on the deprivation of British citizenship and whether it could affect you or your family - even if the possibility of losing British citizenship is remote.

The case of Shamima Begum

The loss of Shamima Begum’s British citizenship divides public opinion and is currently the subject of an appeal by Ms Begum to reverse the UK government‘s decision to deprive her of her British nationality.

The case does however demonstrate how many British families have no idea that they or their children are even at risk of losing the right to live in their country of naturalisation.

Shamima Begum’s case is a bit like marmite – you love it or hate it. Supporters see Ms Begum as a 15-year-old victim of grooming and child trafficking to the Islamic State whilst others view her as an ISIS supporter and therefore a potential life-long threat to British national security.

It is the job of UK immigration solicitors to ask difficult questions, such as:

  • Other teens have been persuaded to go abroad with older men and criminal proceedings have focussed on the adult and not the teenager who is seen as the victim. Remember the cases of schoolgirls leaving the UK with their schoolteachers or ‘friends’ met online? There would be an outpouring of condemnation if those children were said to be the culprits and the authors of their own misfortune in being lured and encouraged to leave the UK. Why is Ms Begum different? Is the government right in saying that a person can be trafficked and yet also be a threat to national security and accordingly the risk to the majority should trump the individual’s victimhood?
  • Why does the immigration history of a teen’s parents affect whether the teen can lose their British citizenship? Should there not be 1 rule about whether British citizenship can be removed once you or your family has been accepted into the ‘British citizenship club’?
  • If a teen has a child in an overseas holding camp should the child suffer for ‘the sins of the parent’? According to the human rights group, Reprieve, there are around 25 British families, with 36 children, living in camps in North-east Syria
  • If it takes the Home Office years to determine if those entering the UK on boats are victims of trafficking or economic migrants and to then process their asylum claims, how can the government decide to terminate a teen’s British citizenship without a similarly thorough and lengthy investigation?
  • If you deprive a person of their British citizenship, are you effectively transferring the ‘problem’ to another country? Potentially to a nation that has fewer resources to manage the alleged risk or where there is a greater risk that the person’s human rights will be abused or that their treatment overseas will encourage the very behaviour that the Home Office feared when deciding to deprive the person of their British citizenship

These are undoubtedly difficult questions that divide opinion, with some people veering on the side of caution over the floodgates argument of allowing 1 person to re-enter the UK who may pose a risk to those people that see no justification for differential treatment between ‘homegrown teens’ and those with a dual heritage or who are at risk of loss of British citizenship because of their parent’s immigration decisions.

Ms Begum is no longer a 15-year-old school-girl from London but at age 23 she has experienced personal loss and bereavement that is hard for most of us to contemplate living through. She now faces trying to appeal against the removal of her British citizenship at a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission whilst she remains in an overseas camp having been refused permission at an earlier court hearing to return to the UK to take part in the appeal against the decision to deprive her of British citizenship.

UK law on deprivation of British citizenship

In the case of Ms Begum, the court is hearing arguments on the meaning and interpretation of Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981. This Act gives the Secretary of State the power to deprive an individual of their British citizenship if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good or if British citizenship was obtained by fraud, false representation, or concealment of a material fact.

One of the questions that goes to the heart of the current case is the meaning of ‘satisfied’ given the speed of the decision made by the then Home Secretary, Savid Javid. He deprived Ms Begum of her British citizenship shortly after her initial interviews with the British press with the suggestion that it was what was said in an interview given by Ms Begum that resulted in the deprivation decision rather than a thorough risk assessment and consideration of all the circumstances surrounding Ms Begum leaving the UK with 2 other school-girls.

The key point

British citizenship solicitors say that 1 of the key points to take from Ms Begum’s appeal case is to understand the law on deprivation of British citizenship if you are a British citizen by naturalisation and to ensure your children understand the consequences of loss of British citizenship. That is hard in practice as, by their very nature, teens do not listen to their parents.

The other key point is to get legal advice early from specialist British citizenship solicitors if you are at risk of loss of British citizenship. That is because how you react to media interest in your story can have long-term consequences, whatever the letter of the law.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration and British Citizenship Solicitors

If you have questions on British citizenship applications or deprivation, the expert British citizenship and immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors can help. Call 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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