Protesters have condemned Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill as a “tool to divide” during a demonstration in Westminster.
Organisations including Migrants Organise, Media Diversified and the Sikh Council UK demonstrated alongside members of the public outside the Houses of Parliament against clause nine of the bill, which proposes the ability to strip a British person of their citizenship without notice.
The bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords after it was passed in Parliament and the outcome of the Lords debates can decide whether clause nine becomes law or not.
More than 300,000 people signed a government petition against the bill, and protestors today called for the “racist” legislation to be scrapped.
Sabby Dhalu, 42, from Stand Up to Racism told The Independent: “It’s important to campaign for Lords and members of Parliament to vote against the Nationality and Borders Bill because it frankly needs to be scrapped.
“It’s sole function is simply racism - it’s a tool to divide, distract and scapegoats and it part of a failing government agenda to blame Black people, brown people and refugees. I strongly believe that aspects of it, like clause nine will mean that innocent Black people will be deported like we saw in the Windrush scandal and we have a duty to oppose that, not just let it happen again,” Ms Dhalu added.
“The bill will also make it more likely for more refugees to keep drowning in the sea. The thinking behind it is to stop people from coming here, which is criminal given that so few refugees actually get to come here.”
According to analysis by the New Statesman, clause nine of the bill could impact up to six million people in Britain - with the majority being ethnic minorities such as those from Black, Asian or Eastern European backgrounds.
Ragad Altikriti, 49, president of Muslim Association of Britain said: “The people who are standing here protesting today are all from different minorities and faith groups, and something that has brought them together is the threat that this law presents. It’s being seen as racist and creating a second-class citizenship of who is ‘more British’ than another.
“Suddenly, this law is saying that if you come from a different background and the government does not like your behaviour - as the rulings are very vague - your citizenship could be stripped.”
She added: “If you have a doubt of how fairly the government is going to treat you, then you’re not going to feel you’re a complete citizen and if you’re not a complete citizen, it’s going to affect how much good you could bring to contribute to this country.”
Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, a person’s citizenship can be revoked if it would be “conducive to the public good” including in the interest of national security, if a person had been involved in serious crimes, or other “unacceptable behaviours”.
In 2014, law changes in the Immigration Act meant a person’s could be stripped of their citizenship even if it resulted in them becoming stateless.
Anas Mustapha, 30, from the advovacy organisation Cage, said “there’s a widespread feeling of anxiety and fear of the unknown of what it is to come” for those potentially impacted by Ms Patel’s bill.
He said: “The powers to deprive people of their citizenship already exist and have existed for the best part of two decades. They have, in particular, targeted Muslims and other minorities who commit crimes that the government decides are abhorrent, agitating or politically convenient to them.
“You either have your rights completely and at all times or not at all, we can’t have this two-tier system which is existing in the UK so, for us, it’s that principle we’re fighting against and trying to empower people with. We need to defend and exercise our rights to the fullest, and ensure that the governor is not allowed to continue voting on powers that cement two-tier citizenship and this medieval, exile regime they have in place.”
Samantha Asumadu, 42, from organisation Media Diversified described most of the clauses of the Nationality and Borders Bill as “draconian, racist and Islamophobic”, with clause nine being the biggest cause for concern.
She said: “It makes it very difficult for people to live a normal life because you’re always in fear. Fear of making one wrong step, fear of somebody else making one wrong step and implicating you in some way, fear of being an activist and living their lives in a normal manner. It could be as simple as getting into a car accident which could put you in the Home Office’s crosshairs and make you eligible to be, potentially, deported”.
Gurpreet Singh Anand, 50, secretary general of the Sikh Council UK said the law was “very dangerous” and described the potential of having his own citizenship revoked, due to his activism work, and those of his community.
He said: “From the Sikh community, we’re waiting to see how this gets used on us because attempts to extradite Sikhs who have been critical of the Indian government largely fail.
“I’m critical of the Indian government over human rights - I could find myself having my citizenship revoked and being stuck in India even though I’m a British citizen, I live here and I was born here.”
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, 69, from the Jewish Voice for Labour, said she found the bill “alarming” and said it was “threatening to people from all ethnic minorities, particular people of Black and brown colour”.
She said: “Now, the rules are going to loosened and this implies that any home secretary can decide that somebody’s citizenship is not conducive to the public good which is a very broad term.
“We already know that people in government think that if you’re engaged in the sort of activist that I support - Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, Palestine Action - then you could be classed as a terrorist or a threat. Then, for people who’s family background derives from somewhere else in the world, they will always feel vulnerable,” Ms Wimborne-Idrissi added.
“It could limit people’s ability and willingness to take part in legitimate protest if they fear that they are vulnerable to losing their citizenship. It’s quite frightening.... we’re facing severe, right-wing threat to our liberties, it’s happened before in history so people should take warning.”
Clause nine of the bill is still being debated in the House of Lords and some campaigners are hopeful that the amendment will be opposed.
Ms Asmandu said: “We encourage people to email their MPs, Lords and come to protests and to keep fighting and opposing Priti Patel’s and the government’s agenda to make people second-class citizens and criminalise people in ways we’ve never seen before.
“It is the most racist legislation that has come to this country in my living memory. This is why people have come to protest because they know that their neighbours, their loved ones, their friends and colleagues are being unfairly targeted.”
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