UK loses appeal to strip ISIS follower in Al Roj of citizenship

Court rules it unlawful to remove citizenship without giving prior notice, which could open the door to others in similar circumstances

A British woman living in Al Hol camp, Syria, was stripped of her citizenship without her knowledge. AFP
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The British government has failed in its latest attempt to deprive citizenship from a grandmother suspected of being a member of ISIS.

The woman, who is known only as D4 in court papers, is living in Al Roj camp, in north-east Syria, and had her citizenship revoked in 2019 by the Home Office but was not given notice.

She discovered only in 2020 that it had been revoked and launched a legal action action against the government – which she won last year.

This week, the Home Office failed in its legal attempt to overturn that decision. It could lead the way for others deprived of their citizenship to appeal. Lady Justice Whipple dismissed the appeal on the grounds it was unlawful to remove the woman's citizenship without giving her prior notice.

"The 1981 Act does not confer powers of such breadth that the Home Secretary can deem notice to have been given where no step at all has been taken to communicate the notice to the person concerned and the order has simply been put on the person's Home Office file," she said.

"To permit that would be to permit the statute to be subverted by secondary legislation. Only parliament can decide that the requirement for notice contained in the 1981 Act should be altered in this way."

Lord Justice Baker said such a step was "not lawful".

"There are a number of ways in which notice can be given but putting the document in a drawer is not one of them. That is not 'giving notice'," he said.

"There may be good policy reasons for empowering the secretary of state to deprive a person of citizenship without giving notice, but such a step is not lawful under this legislation.

"If the government wishes to empower the secretary of state in that way, it must persuade parliament to amend the primary legislation. That is what it is currently seeking to do under the Nationality and Borders Bill."

SYRIA CONFLICT IS FAMILIES ROJ CAMP

The bill, which is presently going through parliament would, under certain circumstances, remove the requirement to give notice of citizenship deprivation.

If approved, it will not be able to be applied retrospectively.

The court heard the decision to remove the woman's citizenship had been made "on grounds that the decision was conducive to the public good".

The Home Office is seeking permission to appeal against the decision at the Supreme Court.

“Citizenship deprivation only happens after very careful consideration of the facts and in accordance with international law," it said.

"Each case is assessed individually on its own merits and always comes with the right to appeal. We are carefully considering the implications of this ruling."

Updated: January 27, 2022, 4:23 PM
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