Foreign-born terror suspects on British soil could be stripped of their UK passports and citizenship – leaving them stateless – under a last minute change tabled by the home secretary and endorsed by the deputy PM.
Home Secretary Theresa May on Wednesday promised the measure would be used sparingly, only being applied in cases where individuals’ actions are viewed as "seriously prejudicial" to British security.
"Citizenship is a privilege, not a right. These proposals will strengthen the home secretary's powers to ensure that very dangerous individuals can be excluded if it is in the public interest to do so," the BBC cites Immigration Minister Mark Harper as saying.
The proposal has been viewed as an apparent bid to placate conservative backbenchers calling for the bill to be beefed up before it is debated in the House of Commons on Thursday.
At present, the home secretary can strip British citizenship from dual nationals, as made evident by the case of Mahdi Hashi and others. The latest proposal would extend that power, allowing her to make naturalized British citizens stateless.
It comes as the government faces backbench rebellions over the rights of foreign criminals and Romanian and Bulgarian migrants.
Tory rebels have warned of a "parliamentary riot" if ministers press ahead with plans to "time out" a separate amendment that would strip foreign criminals of the ability to resist deportation by invoking Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which gives them a right to family life. The amendment curtailing judicial power to block deportation when foreign criminals have family connections in the UK is backed by over 100 MPs, including the former Labour cabinet minister Hazel Blears.
Around 40 more are also prepared to defy Cameron by backing a demand to reinstate rules preventing Romanians and Bulgarians from working in the UK.
May's eleventh-hour addition to the list of some 50 government amendments is intended to make conservative MPs back down from their deportation demands, although Tory rebels dismissed her proposal as a "displacement exercise," saying ministers could have introduced the proposal months ago, the Guardian reports.
They are further suspicious that the ‘program motion’ setting forth a timetable for the report and third state of the bill fails to set the times for the group of amendments, reducing the chances of reaching the amendment on the deportation of foreign criminals tabled by MP Dominic Raab.
Government ministers for their part insist the Raab amendment is redundant, as the Immigration Bill itself contains measures which would curb Article 8 cases.
Meanwhile, On Thursday Shami Chakrabarti, director of the advocacy group Liberty, said the home secretary’s plan to strip terror suspects of their British citizenship as “irresponsible.
“This move is as irresponsible as it is unjust. It would allow British governments to dump dangerous people on the international community, but equally to punish potential innocent political dissenters without charge or trial. There is the edge of populist madness and then the abyss,” says Chakrabarti.
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