The Court of Appeal has struck down a Home Office decision to remove a British woman of her citizenship without telling her.
Home Secretary Priti Patel had tried to argue that notification had been given to D4, who has been detained in the Roj camp in Syria since January 2019, by simply placing a note on her Home Office file.
D4 was born in the UK in 1967 and had British nationality from birth, along with Pakistani nationality. The decision to strip her of British citizenship was made on December 27, 2019 but her solicitors were only informed when they wrote to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in September 2020, asking for help in repatriating her.
The Home Office’s claim relied on regulations that had been introduced by statutory instrument, without parliamentary approval.
But the court said the British Nationality Act 1981 required written notice to be given to someone of a decision to strip them of their citizenship and only parliament could decide to alter that requirement.
Lady Justice Whipple said: “The 1981 act does not confer powers of such breadth that the home secretary can deem notice to have been given where no step at all has been taken to communicate the notice to the person concerned and the order has simply been put on the person’s Home Office file. To permit that would be to permit the statute to be subverted by secondary legislation.”
Whipple said the purpose for requirement to give notice in the 1981 act was that “the person needs to know that a decision has been made; the person is entitled to know the reasons for that decision; and the person is put on notice of their appeal rights”.
This should have serious consequences for Patel’s current plan to remove the requirement to give notice – including retrospectively – as described in Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill.
The ruling states that British justice requires a person to be told their nationality has been removed, to be given the reason for that decision, and to be told how they may appeal.
Failure to provide that information is an offence to justice.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, the charity representing people who suffer extreme human rights abuses (and note that this means the Home Office subject D4 to extreme abuse) said the decision confirmed that stripping a UK national of their citizenship in secret is illegal.
“But the government is already cynically attempting to circumvent the courts by using Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill to render this ruling moot, making a mockery of the rule of law.
“Ministers should change course and recognise that depriving people of their citizenship without even telling them is an affront to British principles of justice and fairness.”
And what are ministers actually doing?
They are seeking permission from the Supreme Court to appeal against the ruling. The UK’s government has nothing but contempt for the rule of law.
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