Stripping people of British citizenship without telling them is definitely illegal

The UK government’s attempt to strip a British-Pakistani woman of her citizenship without telling her was unlawful, a Court of Appeal has confirmed.

The case is R (D4) (Notice of Deprivation of Citizenship) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2022] EWCA Civ 33.

The woman known only as “D4” was born in the UK in 1967 and has always been a British as well as a Pakistani citizen. She is “assessed to have travelled to Syria to align with the proscribed terrorist organisation Islamic State” and has been detained at Camp Roj for the last three years.

On 27 December 2019, the government made an order under section 40(2) of the 1981 Act depriving D4 of her British citizenship. (The formal decision to do so was made, incidentally, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid — the Home Secretary presumably being on holiday.) Officials made a note in the file saying “we do not know [D4’s] current precise whereabouts so as to somehow effect service” of the deprivation decision.

In September 2020, D4’s solicitors wrote to the government asking for help getting her out of the camp. The Home Office replied saying she was no longer a British citizen and not the British government’s problem. This was “the first time that the deprivation of citizenship had been communicated to D4 or her advisors”.

Section 40(5) of the British Nationality Act 1981 says:

Before making an order under this section in respect of a person the Secretary of State must give the person written notice specifying— 

(a) that the Secretary of State has decided to make an order,

(b) the reasons for the order, and 

(c) the person’s right of appeal under section 40A(1) or under section 2B of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997.

The Court of Appeal ultimately held that the regulation allowing notice of citizenship deprivation to be placed “on file” is ultra vires the British Nationality Act 1981, which requires the Home Secretary to “give the person written notice” and therefore the actions of the Home Office were illegal.

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