The Supreme Court has refused permission for Shamima Begum, who left the UK as a 15-year-old British schoolgirl for Syria in 2015, to come back to the UK so that she can effectively challenge the removal of her citizenship (decision dated 26th February 2021;  UKSC 7). Begum was found in a camp in Syria two years back. The Home Secretary removed her British citizenship soon thereafter, arguing that she has eligibility for Bangladeshi citizenship, and would not be left stateless without British citizenship. (more…)
Sajiv Javid’s decision to revoke the citizenship of Shamima Begum, the 19-year-old from Bethnal Green who left to join Islamic State in 2015, has been met with mixed reaction. While some supported the home secretary’s decision, others have expressed concern about its implications.
In these debates, there is much confusion about what cancellation of citizenship entails: whether this is just the cancellation of Begum’s passport, whether she is becoming stateless or whether she could be sent to Bangladesh because she comes from a family of Bangladeshi heritage.
In reality, cancellation of British citizenship means people can be left in limbo in war zones because they lose the right to re-enter the UK and to receive any diplomatic protection.
Begum’s case, while high profile, is not unique, and in 2017, there was a large spike in cases and the citizenship of 104 people was revoked on grounds where it was deemed “conducive to the public good”. (more…)
On 16 November 2016, three days after the terror attacks in Paris, the then-French President François Holland gathered both houses of Parliament (the National Assembly and the Senate) in Versailles. He started his speech with a grave tone, by noting that “France was at war”, and that the country needed to be “ruthless” in “such times of exceptional gravity”. He called for “national unity” and proposed a revision of the Constitution.
His proposal was to enshrine in the Constitution the procedure of the state of emergency (article 1) and the cancellation of citizenship for dual nationality holders (article 2). As Holland then put it
We must be able to strip the nationality of an individual who has been condemned for acts contrary to the fundamental interests of the Nation or acts of terrorism, even if the individual was born French, and I mean it “even if the individual was born French” so long as the person has another nationality (Holland’s speech, 5).
The proposal was eventually dropped on March 2016, following the failure of both houses to agree on a similar text on article 2, cancellation of citizenship, as required by article 89 of the Constitution. This article spread intense debate across French society and enjoyed widespread press coverage from French newspapers of all kinds. More than ten public opinion polls were issued on the subject and it prompted the resignation of Christiane Taubira, the Secretary of State for Justice. All this for a relatively short debate: 136 days in total.
It is unclear whether this failure can be attributed to the specific political context at the time (a right-wing Senate and left-wing National Assembly, the low popularity of President Holland and the uncertainty of the regional elections (which were to take place in June 2016), to the rigidity of the French Constitution (article 89 requires a majority of 3/5 of both houses gathered together in Congress), or to the importance of citizenship-nationality in the French national narrative. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between these lines. But in the broader context of an increase in recourse by states to the deprivation of nationality as a counter-terror measure (see for example the Netherlands or the UK), a closer analysis of the debate around the contested measure is warranted. (more…)