Home Secretary Priti Patel (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
THE UK has a proud history of being open to the world. Global Britain continues in that tradition.
Our society is enriched by legal migration and we are a better country for it.
The Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill, back in the House of Lords and one step closer to becoming law, builds upon our proud tradition of helping those in need from around the world. This will never change.
The Bill is designed to make our immigration system fair to those who play by the rules, and firm on those who seek to abuse the system.
For example, the Bill will address many of the unfair historical anomalies around citizenship which have existed for too long in British Nationality law.
British Nationality law has not changed significantly since 1983, and some of the provisions are very much outdated.
One change we are making to address this is introducing a new adult registration route so that I, as the Home Secretary has the discretion to grant citizenship to adults in certain circumstances. This covers a range of cases, including where exceptional circumstances have prevented an individual from becoming a British citizen.
We will also introduce further flexibility to waive residence requirements for naturalisation more quickly in exceptional cases. For instance, where people are not able to meet residence requirements to qualify for British citizenship through no fault of their own. This will help to ensure injustices like those faced by the Windrush generation categorically never happen again.
These significant changes to Nationality law will protect people from a range of injustices that we have seen in the past, ensuring that the system is fair.
I have found it completely shocking that opponents to the Nationality and Borders Bill have deliberately mischaracterised and misrepresented some important measures we are trying to introduce. One of these is specifically around proposals in the Bill relating to removing British citizenship.
Irresponsible scaremongering has regrettably led to considerable confusion and fear, which is why I want to offer some reassurance here specifically about deprivation of citizenship and what the Bill will mean for this important power.
It has been wrongly suggested that six million dual-nationality Britons could face having their British citizenship taken away, or that future Home Secretaries could deprive people of citizenship for minor misdemeanours just because we felt like it. These claims are the most wildly inaccurate reports I have seen in recent months. The reality is that the part of the Bill concerning what are called Deprivation Notices is just an administrative change.
Removing British citizenship has been possible for over a century – since the 1914 British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act. The power is currently contained within the British Nationality Act of 1981, so this is nothing new. It is only used against those who have acquired citizenship by fraud, and against the most dangerous people – like terrorists, extremists, and serious organised criminals. It is not something that will affect ordinary people. It always comes with a right of appeal.
However, the change we are making is nothing to do with any of that. It is simply about the process of notifying someone about removal of their citizenship. We will always try to tell someone that their citizenship has been deprived, but it might not be possible in exceptional circumstances – for example, if they are in a warzone or if informing them would reveal sensitive intelligence sources. It can’t be right that we are unable to protect the public with this measure because someone tries to hide from the law, or because there is no effective postal service.
It does not breach human rights or international law. It is simply untrue that it will have a disproportionate impact on non-white British citizens or those with dual passports. The suggestion that millions of people could be stripped of their nationality without warning or left stateless is not rooted in reality.
The Nationality and Borders Bill contains vital measures to make the UK safer and protect our borders – something that is in the interests of all Britons. And we will continue to welcome highly- killed people from around the world and to offer sanctuary to those fleeing persecution. Far from being inhumane, it will finally mean that we have a system which is fair but firm.