The UK government has more powers to deprive individuals of their citizenship than any other G20 country, according to a New Statesman analysis of data released on 2 December.
The analysis is based on a dataset compiled by academics at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, which details the laws regulating the acquisition and deprivation of citizenship in 177 countries.
MPs are currently debating the government’s proposed Nationality and Borders Bill, which would loosen the requirement for the government to notify people that their citizenship has been revoked. Campaigners and MPs have claimed this could threaten individuals' ability to appeal a decision.
A Home Office spokesperson told the New Statesman, "There are inaccurate interpretations being reported on administrative changes to deprivation powers in the Nationality and Borders Bill.
"Removing British citizenship has been possible for over a century, and is used against those who have acquired citizenship by fraud, and against the most dangerous people, such as terrorists, extremists and serious organised criminals.
“This change is simply about the process of notification and recognises that in exceptional circumstances, such as when someone is in a war zone, or informing them would reveal sensitive intelligence sources, it may not be possible to do this.”
The UK home secretary can currently strip any dual national of their citizenship if doing so is deemed “conducive to the public good”, even if they have been British from birth. The New Statesman has estimated that this power could put the rights of around 410,000 British-born dual nationals at risk.
Australia, Turkey and the US are the only other G20 countries that allow such individuals to have their citizenship revoked. In the US, however, individuals can only lose their citizenship through a voluntary act of renunciation, while Turkey only strips citizenship in cases where the individual has assisted a combatant state.
In Australia, the individual must have been convicted of specific terrorism offences, receiving a prison sentence of at least six years. Australian law also allows for deprivation of citizenship to target those who have left the country to fight in countries such as Syria (so cannot be easily tried) but, unlike in the UK, it excludes anyone aged 14 or under from this provision.
The British home secretary is able to revoke citizenship from people without dual nationality if the individual acquired their citizenship by naturalisation; and the home secretary has “reasonable grounds to believe” they are likely to be eligible for another nationality; and they have acted in a way that is “seriously prejudicial” to the “vital interests” of the UK.
The New Statesman estimates that 5.2 million people in England and Wales could be eligible for deprivation of citizenship under this provision. Those without dual citizenship would be left stateless.
Within the G20, only Brazil and India have such sweeping powers to render their citizens stateless. Italian law requires a conviction for crimes of terrorism or subversion, while Saudi Arabia’s provisions apply only during the first five years after naturalisation.
US and Turkish citizens can also be rendered stateless, but in the former case only voluntarily and in the latter case only through assisting a combatant state.
The New Statesman’s analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics finds six million people in England and Wales could become eligible to be stripped of their citizenship under current rules, and would have their right to notification curtailed by the Nationality and Borders Bill.
This includes an estimated 39 per cent of black Britons and half of British Asians, compared with 5 per cent of people from a white background.
This article was edited on 13 December to include comment from the Home Office.