Two Yemeni women lose appeal for UK citizenship

Women had argued the delay between Britain relinquishing control and Yemen implementing new policy meant they were eligible

The port city of Aden in Yemen. Two women born in 1968 in Aden, which was then a British colony, have lost their fight to gain British passports. Reuters
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Two women from Aden in Yemen have lost their fight to gain British passports.

The pair, who were born in 1968, had argued the delay between Britain relinquishing control of the Aden Colony in 1967 and Yemen implementing new policy meant they were eligible.

Safa Jama Abdi Al Hashemi and Sada Ali Obaleh Noor took their case to London's High Court to appeal against the UK Passport Office's refusal of their applications.

“The challenge is to HM Passport Office's refusal of UK British Overseas Citizen's (BOC's) passports to the claimants because the defendant declines to recognise them as entitled to British Overseas Citizenship,” Mrs Justice Foster said.

“The claimants assert British nationality by operation of law, arguing that they were Citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKCs) under the British Nationality Act 1948, and are BOCs within the meaning of the British Nationality Act 1981.

“The nub of the defendant's refusal to grant passports to the claimants is that, having been born after November 30, 1967, when Aden was granted independence, and after November 30, 1967, when Aden became part of the People's Republic of South Yemen, they have no claim to British nationality through their birth in Aden since Aden was at that point no longer a British colony.

“The claimants say first that the natural reading of relevant statutes is to the effect that between the proclaimed end of British rule and its old law, and the adoption of the new Yemeni nationality law, the old nationality law of the UK continued in force.

“Thus those who were born “in the gap” after November 1967 but before August, 14, 1968, had the benefit of CUKC status because for nationality purposes Aden was still a colony.

“The claimants' main submission is that parliament intended that they should have the benefit of British protection until, at least, local laws were in place.”

However, the Secretary of State's legal team argued that nationality depends upon sovereignty over the soil.

“The sovereignty of the relevant soil was, at the time when this claimants were born, quite clearly, no longer British,” the court heard.

Mrs Justice Foster ruled the case must be dismissed.

“It was extraordinary if parliament had intended that there should be a territory where the United Kingdom had relinquished all control — save only that it still granted citizenship to those who continued to be born there,” she said.

“This is made more unlikely in my view since HM Government and Parliament would have had no idea on 30 November 1967 when any nationality Law was certainly to be brought in, at a date or at all, by the new Sovereign state.

“Were such a result to have been intended it would have been very clearly spelt out in the statute dealing with nationality by way of express amendment or other legislative instrument as was given effect in respect of other parts of the world and erstwhile colonial territories.

“Aden did not represent a measured transfer of colonial power. There had been a sudden political upheaval and a unilateral declaration of independence, with a new Sovereign State emerging immediately, in November 1967. Control had expressly been relinquished, specially at the end of November 1967. I am clear this application must be dismissed.”

Updated: April 06, 2023, 12:55 PM