Shamima Begum’s British Citizenship, British Residence, it’s All Very Complicated Really.

1
728

In one sense this row over Shamima Begum and her British citizenship, right to reside in the UK, is mindbogglingly simple. She’s British and there’s an end to it. Government is something we Brits do to ourselves, not something we do to create outcasts.

Sure, government can and should define who gets to become a Brit. But once in then that’s it, they’re in. Lying about the process to get in can lead to losing it again, but nowt else. And especially citizenship by birth cannot be rescinded. One amazement here is that this has me agreeing, even if only partially, with Chris Bertram.

The UK government has given itself the power to deprive people of citizenship where this is “conducive to the public good” but the law up to now had been that they had to be satisfied that the person would not be rendered stateless. After all, as we know, if citizenship is the right to have right, statelessness is a condition of near rightlessness. In the present case, they seem to be claiming that a person born in the UK who acquired British nationality at birth can be deprived of citizenship because she is entitled to Bangladeshi nationality through her mother. Shamima Begum has never been to Bangladesh and has no connection to the country. Though her case involves terrorism the UK has also begun to use citizenship deprivation in cases involving “serious criminality”, a vague category that is capable of being defined downwards (as it was when Javid spoke about a group of people recently deported to Jamaica). Millions of people born in the UK and holding British nationality currently have “access to” another citizenship. It may be Irish citizenship (the entire nationalist population of Northern Ireland!). It may be Israeli citizenship through the law of return. It may be the citizenship of some country in Britain’s former empire, such as Bangladesh. The new expansions of citizenship deprivation theoretically expose all of them to the possibility of exile and banishment to another country should they be convicted of serious crime.

For example, I have that right to Irish citizenship, my brother has taken it up. I don’t think that does justify the UK government’s power to deprive me of my British citizenship.

However, we’ve also got technical difficulties here:

The newborn baby of Shamima Begum is a British citizen and could return to the UK despite the teenage mother losing her citizenship over her support for the terror group Isil, according to lawyers.

So that lets her back into the country again, as the parent of a minor who is a British citizen, no? Apparently not:

Jihadi bride Shamima Begum will be barred from using her baby’s British citizenship as a backdoor route to return to the UK, Government sources have indicated. It emerged on Wednesday that the newborn baby of Ms Begum, who left east London to join Islamic state in Syria four years ago, is a British citizen because he was born at the weekend before his 19-year old mother was stripped of her British citizenship on Tuesday. Home Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed the boy’s status to MPs: “If a parent does lose their British citizenship it does not affect the rights of their child.”

“Be barred” “indicated” are the code words for “we’ve no idea how but we’ll cook something up.” It’ll be interesting to see how they do:

Non-EU citizens may have the right to residence in the EU if their children are EU citizens, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.

Yes, that’s the ECJ, the EU court. Meaning that we get out of it when we Brexit. Which is fun, isn’t it? We can only keep a Bangladeshi citizen out of the UK if we’re outside the European Union?