Does statelessness prevent British citizenship deprivation?

26 Mar 2024, 50 mins ago

On 19 February 2019, Shamima Begum’s family received a letter notifying them of the Home Office’s decision to deprive her of her British Citizenship in light of her decision to join the Islamic State in 2015, when she was only 15 years old.

During this time, it was argued that Ms Begum could have obtained Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents. However, Ms Begum had no realistic prospect of obtaining citizenship as the Bangladeshi government had threatened her with execution. The deprivation of British citizenship would thus have rendered her de facto stateless.

Ms Begum initiated and underwent a series of legal battles in response to her citizenship revocation, which began in February 2020.  Since then, her case has been determined multiple times in different courts and tribunals, including most recently on 23 February 2024, when it was ultimately concluded, in the reaffirmation of the Home Office’s decision, to revoke her citizenship on multiple grounds. In this blog, we will discuss the ground of de facto statelessness.

Section 40(4) of the British Nationality Act 1981 prohibits the Secretary of State from making a deprivation order if it has been established that the order would make a person stateless.

In Ms Begum’s case, her statelessness was caused by the application of Ground 3, giving rise to a question of whether the Secretary of State had taken into consideration the aforementioned point prior to determining that it was appropriate to revoke her citizenship. The court was satisfied that a ministerial submission made to the Home Secretary before he had made the decision was sufficient for the purposes of Section 40(4).

While the specific facts of this case were rather unique, this latest judgement does indicate that statelessness is not the absolute bar to the deprivation of citizenship that it was once conceived of to be.

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