British Muslims have ‘second-class citizenship’, report claims


The Institute of Race Relations argues that changes to legislation on citizenship have been introduced to specifically target Muslims

Islamophobia Awareness Month

A new report has claimed that powers allowing for the government to strip people of their citizenship have created ‘second-class citizenship’ in the UK. The report, published by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), argues that the ‘second class citizenship’ has primarily affected British Muslims.

The report is authored by Frances Webber – a former barrister who specialised in immigration, refugee and human rights law until her retirement in 2008.

The report warns that there has been a drastic increase in the number of people who have been stripped of their citizenship. According to the IRR, when the Muslim preacher Abu Hamza was stripped of his citizenship in 2003 there had been no removal of citizenship authorised for 30 years. However, the think tank claims that at least 217 people have had their citizenship removed – 104 of which took place in 2017 following the collapse of ISIS in Syria.

The IRR argues that the Home Office is not required to show reasonable grounds to remove a person’s citizenship, and that someone stripped of their citizenship doesn’t need to have been convicted of any offence, with many deprived despite having no criminal convictions.

The report follows the introduction of the Nationality and Borders Act which gives the Home Office the powers to strip people of their citizenship without notice. The powers only apply to British citizens who hold or who have access to another citizenship. Estimates indicate that this could apply to as many of two in five BME citizens.

In the report, the IRR makes the case that the “law and practice surrounding British nationality and its removal has been shaped by racism”, and that, “British citizens are divided into those claiming only British citizenship, who can never lose it whatever they do, and those who, although they may have been born here, have access to another citizenship, who can lose their British citizenship on the say-so of a minister.”

Going further still, the report claims that the current legislative framework around citizenship was specifically introduced to target British Muslims – claiming that British Muslims have been turned into a “suspect community”. The report says, “Changes to citizenship law which have created these classes of citizenship were brought in to target British Muslims of south Asian and middle eastern heritage. Such divisions act as a constant reminder to minority ethnic citizens that they must watch their step, and reinforce racist messages about “undeserving” racialised groups unworthy of being British.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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