The government’s Nationality and Borders Bill could strip people of their British citizenship without notice or warning – even if, like me, you were born in the UK, writes Unzela Khan
Image: Unzela Khan)
In October 1993 I was born in a London hospital – my parents and four-month-old brother had come from Pakistan the previous year, with my father attaining a work visa.
In the following year, all three received an indefinite leave to remain, and a year after this, they received their British Citizenship.
With this, I also automatically gained citizenship through my parents – and of course, I was born here – so for all intents and purposes, I was and am British.
Growing up in North London, I went to school in Barnet and then went on to secondary school nearby as well.
Ultimately, I graduated from University of London while working multiple jobs throughout my university years.
I then started my career as a journalist and hoped to make a change because the industry lacked British south Asians, and coverage around the community has been predominantly negative.
There are around six million people like me, with similar stories of being born and brought up here, working in the UK and classing themselves as British Pakistani – which, despite having Pakistani at the end of it, does not make the ‘British’ part of it any less credible – surely?
Although at times it feels as though we are unwanted, this country is where we entered the world and is what we know.
Even if we decide to visit our home countries to gain more of a connection with our cultures, at the end of the day we are British citizens, right?
But as much as we try to cling on to being British Pakistani or British Bangladeshi, British anything, the second part of the title has become a tool to ensure we know that we are in fact second-class citizens.
This is because even though I was born here, I can be deprived of my citizenship if I am able to become a national of another country – for me, I could be deported to Pakistan on the government’s whim.
Despite being born and brought up here, clause 9, proposed by Priti Patel in July and updated last month, would allow for the Home Office to deprive me of my citizenship without delivering physical notification.
This means, if I went abroad and the government was unable to contact me, before boarding a plane back I could be told my passport is no longer valid without any warning.
Mohammed Tasnime Akunjee, the lawyer known for representing Shamima Begum, explained how the new clause impacts Brits like me.
He said: “The existing law is that if the Home Secretary deems you not conducive to the public good, and wish to strip you of citizenship, they have to sent you a notice of their decision with a reason for why they are stripping you of citizenship.
“However, now with the new clause, they don’t have to tell you, you’ll only be told when you try board a plane and your passport is no longer functional.”
The government has said those who are deprived of their citizenship without notice have the right to appeal, but Mr Akunjee says there are issues with this.
He said: “You need a physical notice in order to appeal a decision – if you don’t have that then the courts will demand that you prove that you have actually have been stripped.
“You have to acquire that proof and be able to submit that to the court before you can even appeal.”
Additionally, although some might think that being born here would put you less at risk of being deprived of your status, Mr Akunjee says from a legal perspective, it does not.
He said: “Both people (those born here or who have acquired citizenship) can be stripped of their citizenship, being born or not born here doesn’t make a difference in respect of this bill.”
According to The Guardian, the Home Office has said: “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right.
“Deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm.
“The Nationality and Borders Bill will amend the law so citizenship can be deprived where it is not practicable to give notice, for example, if there is no way of communicating with the person.”
So this means that as long as I am a good immigrant, I can stay in the UK?
But if I was white, as I would be less likely to be able to get another nationality I would be more likely to keep my British citizenship regardless of what threat I pose to the public.
*A version of this piece originally appeared on MyLondon
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.