Exclusive: No way back for Britons who join the Syrian fight, says Theresa May

 

Secret use of citizenship-stripping powers has been dramatically stepped up as Theresa May moves to prevent the return of dual-nationals who have gone to fight in Syria.

The Home Secretary has so far revoked the British citizenship of 20 people this year – more than in her previous two- and-a-half years combined.

She has removed the citizenship of 37 people since May 2010, according to figures collated by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Critics warned the practice could leave individuals at risk of torture and ill-treatment in their home countries.

Security sources are particularly alarmed because Syria’s proximity to Europe makes it easier for violent UK-based extremists to travel to and from the country.

A former senior Foreign Office official said it was an “open secret” that British nationals fighting in the Syrian civil war were increasingly losing their citizenship.

He told the Bureau: “This [deprivation of citizenship] is happening. There are somewhere between 40 and 240 Brits in Syria, and we are probably not as quick as we should be to strip their citizenship.”

Ms May has the power to terminate the British citizenship of dual-nationality individuals if she believes their presence in the UK is “not conducive to the public good” or if they have obtained it through fraudulent means.

The Home Office declined to explain the reason for the rise, but it said: “Citizenship is a privilege, not a right, and the Home Secretary will remove British citizenship from individuals where she feels it is conducive to the public good to do so.”

Under the British Nationality Act, “deprivation of citizenship orders” can be made without judicial approval and take immediate effect. The only mechanism for fighting the decision is through legal appeals. In all but two known cases, the orders have been issued while the individual was overseas, leaving them stranded abroad facing legal appeals that can take years if they try to return.

If the Home Secretary is acting on “conducive” grounds, the only restriction is that she cannot render a person stateless, effectively meaning an order can only be used against individuals with dual nationality.

Benjamin Ward, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Division, said: “If there is a national security dimension to the stripping of citizenship and if that is something that would be known to the other country of nationality, then that would give rise to concern,” he said. “It’s obviously very important that in looking at these issues the Government complies with its human rights obligations.”

The Home Office has been exploring ways to expand citizenship-stripping powers, which were only invoked five times by the last Labour government, so they can be used even when individuals have no dual nationality and will therefore be made stateless.

Ms May is understood to have discussed plans to boost her powers by inserting an amendment into the Immigration Bill which would allow her to remove the citizenship of British nationals who have renounced their previous citizenship but are accused of acts “ seriously prejudicial to the vital interests” of the UK.

In February, the Bureau and The Independent revealed how the Government stepped up use of the orders, employing them 16 times up to late 2012. Latest figures point to a further dramatic escalation. Two of those who lost citizenship, Bilal al-Berjawi and Mohamed Sakr, were later killed in drone strikes in Somalia.

Another man, Mahdi Hashi, born in Somalia, lost his citizenship last year and is in prison in New York facing terrorism charges. When his parents approached the Government for help in finding him, they were told he was “no longer a British national and as such has no right to receive consular assistance”.

At least five of those who lost their nationality were born in the UK. Unlike with other counter-terrorism powers, there is no official scrutiny of deprivation of citizenship and no routine official publication of the orders. The Bureau has identified 19 cases, providing detail on why those individuals lost their citizenship. Almost every case has been on national security grounds.

The new Home Office figures, released in a Freedom of Information request, show the citizenship of 20 people was revoked between January and November 2013. Previously, the highest number of cases in a single year was six.

One of the new cases is that of Iraqi-born Hilal al-Jedda, who recently lost his UK nationality for a second time, weeks after the Supreme Court ruled an earlier attempt was illegal.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London