Foreign-born terror suspects on British soil may soon be stripped of their UK passports and citizenship and be left stateless, as a crucial amendment on the Immigration Bill was passed in the House of Commons.
Home Secretary Theresa May on Wednesday promised the measure would be used sparingly, only being applied in cases where individuals’ actions are viewed as "seriously prejudicial" to British security.
“Citizenship is a privilege, not a right. These proposals will strengthen the home secretary's powers to ensure that very dangerous individuals can be excluded if it is in the public interest to do so,” the BBC cites Immigration Minister Mark Harper as saying.
The proposal has been viewed as an apparent bid to placate conservative backbenchers calling for the bill to be beefed up before it is debated in the House of Commons on Thursday.
The amendment that was passed by MPs by 297 to 34, is now to be approved by the House of Lords.
At present, the home secretary can strip British citizenship from dual nationals, as made evident by the case of Mahdi Hashi and others. The newly-adopted amendment would extend that power, allowing her to make naturalized British citizens stateless.
May's eleventh-hour addition to the list of some 50 government amendments is intended to make conservative MPs back down from their deportation demands, although the Tory opposition dismissed her proposal as a "displacement exercise," saying ministers could have introduced the proposal months ago, the Guardian reports.
A bid to stop foreign criminals using European human rights law to avoid deportation has been rejected. The MPs voted 241 to 97 against the plan.
Earlier, the Tory opposition warned of a "parliamentary riot" if ministers press ahead with plans to "time out" a separate amendment that would strip foreign criminals of the ability to resist deportation by invoking Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which gives them a right to “respect for private and family life.” The amendment curtailing judicial power to block deportation when foreign criminals have family connections in the UK is backed by over 100 MPs, including the former Labour cabinet minister Hazel Blears.
Around 40 MPs were also prepared to defy Cameron by backing a demand to reinstate rules preventing Romanians and Bulgarians from working in the UK.
There are further suspicious that the ‘program motion’ setting forth a timetable for the report and third draft of the bill fails to set the times for the group of amendments, reducing the chances of reaching the amendment on the deportation of foreign criminals tabled by MP Dominic Raab.
Government ministers for their part insist the Raab amendment is redundant, as the Immigration Bill itself contains measures which would curb Article 8 cases.
Meanwhile, on Thursday Shami Chakrabarti, director of the advocacy group Liberty, said the home secretary’s plan to strip terror suspects of their British citizenship was “irresponsible.”
“This move is as irresponsible as it is unjust. It would allow British governments to dump dangerous people on the international community, but equally to punish potential innocent political dissenters without charge or trial. There is the edge of populist madness and then the abyss,” said Chakrabarti.