We’ve been tortured because UK took away our citizenship, say Britons

Exclusive: Warning comes as politicians consider controversial Nationality and Borders Bill

Nadine White
Wednesday 12 January 2022 13:52 GMT
Tauqir Sharif was stripped of his citizenship in 2017
Tauqir Sharif was stripped of his citizenship in 2017 (Supplied)

Ten Britons say they have suffered detention and torture as a result of having their citizenship stripped – as politicians consider controversial plans to widen the government’s powers.

Under clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords, the government would reserve the right to remove a person’s citizenship without warning.

Now, those who have been made stateless by the UK over the past decade say they have been stranded across the world without the citizenship of another country in an open letter organised by advocacy group Cage.

Some have been accused of belonging to a terrorist group – the justification for taking away their citizenship – but none has been put on trial in the UK for crimes.

Among those backing the letter are aid worker Deniz Solak, who was stripped of his British citizenship in 2015 before being acquitted of involvement in terrorist activity two years later in a Turkish court, and Tauqir “Tox” Sharif who was stripped of his citizenship in 2017 after being accused of links to a group aligned with al-Qaeda, which he denies.

“If we, or anyone else for that matter, has committed a crime, we simply ask for our day in court where we are given the opportunity to challenge the evidence against us,” they write.

They say they have been “overwhelmed” by the opposition to the Nationality and Borders Bill, adding: “The current policy of using ‘secret evidence’ and ‘secret courts’ equips the government and the security services to operate as judge, jury and, in some cases, executioner against us.

“We do not enjoy the support or protection of any country in the world; we are essentially stateless. In practice, this means that some of us have suffered detention, imprisonment, and torture with complete impunity.”

It follows the case of Shamima Begum, who travelled from her London home to Syria aged 15 to join Islamic State in February 2015.

Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

She has denied any involvement in terror activities and a court has heard that there is “overwhelming evidence” the teenager was a victim of trafficking when she left the UK.

Shamima Begum
Shamima Begum (PA)

Anas Mustapha, of Cage, said: “Citizenship deprivation is an egregious violation as it not only exiles you from your home, but it renders you entirely without rights and vulnerable to abuse.

“It’s crucial the voice of the survivors of the current draconian citizenship policies are heard; it brings sharply into focus the absolute impunity the Home Office operates with when applying this power.

“The Nationality and Borders Bill will further cement and extend these powers, to enable the Home Office to deprive people more freely. This undermines equal citizenship for all and places Britons of ethnic minorities as forever second-class citizens. Rolling back these powers is therefore a question of equal citizenship rights first and foremost.”

The other signatories include Sally Lane, the mother of Jack Letts, known as Jihadi Jack; Nabeel Sheikh and four other former British citizens who are appealing the government’s decision through a solicitor.

Under Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, the government no longer has to give notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship if is not “reasonably practicable”.

Under international law, everyone has the right to a nationality so people cannot be left stateless.

However, the government says it is possible to remove a person’s citizenship if they have another nationality to fall back on, such as the country where their parents were born.

This has prompted widespread criticism. Lord Woolley recently told The Independent: “This will further exacerbate the reality that millions of British people, many of African, Caribbean and Asian descent, are second-class citizens.”

Fahad Ansari, who represents four of the letter’s signatories through Duncan Lewis solicitors, said: “Despite never even being charged with a terrorist offence, my clients have been subjected to the severest penalty of being stripped of their citizenship and sent into exile.

“The oppressive nature of this power can be assessed from the fact that this type of punishment would not be open to a sentencing judge to pass if my clients had been convicted of the greatest acts of mass murder.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Government will not apologise for removing the citizenship of terrorists, those involved in serious organised crime and other individuals who have turned their back on the UK and wish to harm us.

“Citizenship deprivation only happens after careful consideration of advice from officials and lawyers and in accordance with international law. Each case is assessed individually and always comes with the right to appeal.”

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