A British man who was made stateless after his citizenship was revoked by the Home Office has had it reinstated five years after first challenging the decision. The ruling has reignited debate over British government powers amid attempts to pass laws that would allow it to remove a person’s citizenship without letting them know.
The man, 40, referred to in court documents as E3, was born in London to Bangladeshi parents. He was served with a deprivation order of citizenship in June 2017, the day before he returned from a trip to Bangladesh where he had travelled to attend the birth of his second daughter.
The Home Office alleged that E3 was an extremist and said he could obtain citizenship elsewhere because his parents were Bangladeshi. But he proved in court that the UK government had erred on a point of law.
E3’s lawyer, Farhad Ansari, told The National the ruling would be significant for dozens of other Britons of Bangladeshi descent in a similar position.
“In the same year my client was deprived of his citizenship, 103 other Britons also had their citizenship revoked. It’s likely that a significant number of them [those decisions] were wrong,” Mr Ansari said.
The lawyer at Duncan Lewis Solicitors said the revocation order rendered his client stateless, which is unlawful under national and international law.
The right to Bangladeshi citizenship of British-born dual citizens lapses automatically if it is not claimed before the person in question is 21.
“The ruling is significant because it means my client and other Brits of Bangladeshi backgrounds who have had their citizenships revoked should automatically have it returned,” Mr Ansari told The National.
The Home Office’s deprivation order claimed E3 was an “Islamist extremist who had previously sought to travel abroad to participate in terrorism-related activity” and therefore posed a threat to national security. But Mr Ansari said the UK government never provided any details or evidence to support such allegations.
“More importantly, if they really did have evidence that he committed a crime why not arrest him?’ Mr Ansari said.
E3, who has never been charged with a criminal offence, said he had "no idea" as to what the government’s allegations refer. The father-of-two said his mental health suffered was severely affected by the order and claimed he has been treated unfairly, describing the period as the "most depressing in his life".
“How on Earth do you defend yourself against an allegation like that, especially when the government relies on secret evidence? The disclosure my solicitors received was almost entirely redacted so I have no idea what the government is referring to," he said.
“Why was I not arrested and questioned? Why have I been punished in this way without ever being shown a single piece of evidence against me? The government should admit that they have made a mistake and own up to it."
At the time of the order, E3 was living and working in the UK but had been visiting Bangladesh, where his wife and toddler lived because his salary wasn’t high enough to qualify for a family sponsorship visa. After he was unable to return to the UK, E3 lost his job and income.
Mr Ansari described the government’s decision to leave E3 stranded and destitute in Bangladesh with a wife and two children as “unethical.”
“My client lost five years of his life because of the unlawful decision of the home secretary that lacked any prior judicial oversight,” he said.
The revocation order had the knock-on effect of depriving E3’s daughter of British citizenship because she was born after her father’s was taken away.
Despite her father’s citizenship being reinstated, the Home Office is refusing to accept that the daughter is a British citizen.
The High Court has granted him and his daughter permission for a judicial review of that decision and a hearing is expected in the spring which E3 is expected to attend.
He is aiming to visit the UK soon to spend time with his elderly mother, whom he has not seen in five years. He said he would like to return to the UK permanently but the matter is "complicated" by the situation surrounding his daughter’s citizenship.
Mr Ansari said Britain was “abdicating its responsibility to countless children who need protection”, a reference to the youngsters stranded in refugee camps in Syria after being denied British citizenship because they were born after their parents were deprived of theirs.
Campaigners have long been calling on the UK to repatriate the estimated 60 children who originally come from Britain but are currently living in squalid camps in the north-east of Syria.
E3’s case raises new concerns over the equality of British rights of citizens from ethnic minorities and immigrant backgrounds. UK law allows the Home Office to revoke the citizenship only of people who are dual citizens or whom it believes are eligible for another nationality.
“Being British is a fundamental part of my identity but it really feels like you need more than just being born and raised in the UK to really be considered one [a Briton]. Having an ethnic background relegates you to being a second-class citizen,” E3 said.
Mr Ansari told The National the while the UK's proposed new powers were "problematic", they would not have made in a difference to his client’s case as he would have been alerted to the revocation when he tried to fly home.
“The discussions around the new law to revoke notice has awoken the masses around the central issue of deprivation of citizenship,” he said.
Home Secretary Priti Patel's contentious Nationality and Borders Bill, which would allow the Home Office to remove a dual national’s citizenship without informing them, is currently being debated in the House of Lords.