The Home Secretary Priti Patel has been dealt a major blow after the Court of Appeal ruled that the government had unlawfully stripped a British woman of her citizenship without notifying her of the fact. The 54-year-old dual nationality woman, who is referred to in legal proceedings as D4, has been detained in Syria’s al-Roj refugee camp since January 2019; her British citizenship was revoked on 27 December 2019 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the absence of the Home Secretary. 
On Wednesday, Sir Geoffrey Vos, The Master of the Rolls, as well as Lord Justice Baker and Lady Justice Whipple delivered their judgment which found – by a two-to-one majority – that the government had unlawfully stripped the British-Pakistani woman of her UK citizenship. Lisa Giovannetti QC and Andrew Deakin, representing the government, had sought to argue that notice of the revocation of citizenship had been effected through placing a copy of the said notice in the person’s Home Office file; Giovannetti and Deakin referred to Regulation 10(4) of the British Nationality (General) Regulations 2003, which they argued gives the Home Secretary the power “to deprive a person of their citizenship under section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981…by placing a copy of that notice on the person’s file at the Home Office”. 
The judgment is presumed to be deeply embarrassing to the government, particularly as it continues efforts to push through the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill. The bill is currently at the committee stage in the House of Lords, and peers comprising Labour’s Shami Chakrabarti and crossbencher Simon Woolley are preparing to support an amendment that removes the offending section, which is known as clause 9. In essence, the clause, which is formally referred to as “Notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship”, is an article that was quietly added by the government in early November last year. If made into law, the Home Office would have the power to deprive Britons of their citizenship without notice, if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so. Likewise, wherever the interests of national security or diplomatic relations are deemed to be at risk, the government would be able to revoke a person’s British citizenship without notice.  
Baroness Chakrabarti and Lord Woolley recently penned an opinion piece in the Guardian, in which the veteran rights campaigners stated:
“…we are both well acquainted with the harsh realities of inequality and injustice in modern Britain. But the government’s nationality and borders bill…feels like a very personal insult. This is because it lays bare an uncomfortable and usually unspoken truth: that people like us, born in Britain but with foreign-born parents, are second-class citizens.” 
Chakrabarti and Woolley further decried the callous nature of clause 9. The pair added:
“Hundreds of formerly British citizens, especially from ethnic minorities, have already been stripped of their citizenship in the past 15 years. But Boris Johnson’s government wants to go even further. Clause 9 of this generally poisonous bill would give ministers the ability to remove our British citizenship without even telling us. This would severely affect the right of appeal; contesting government decisions needs to be done in a timely and effective way, but how would this be possible if you don’t know that the decision has been made? It seems the government is saying, if we take your citizenship, you’ve lost it. Period.” 
Sharmishta “Shami” Chakrabarti, Baroness Chakrabarti, is a Labour Party politician and former director of the advocacy group Liberty between the years 2003 and 2016. Chakrabarti is also a barrister and former shadow attorney general who served under Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. Simon Woolley, Baron Woolley of Woodford, is a former commissioner of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and race campaigner. Their joint sentiment is a reflection of the disgust found amongst members of the Lords concerning clause 9. This is especially so at a time when the dust from the Windrush scandal has barely settled, in addition to the fact that prominent cases such as that of Shamima Begum remain firmly in the limelight. 
While Begum’s case is one of nationwide prominence, there was also the case of a British-Bangladeshi man who had his citizenship revoked for almost five years. The government had sought to claim that the 40-year-old father of three was an “an Islamist extremist who had previously sought to travel abroad to participate in terrorism-related activity”. Such spurious allegations have never been proven in a court of law, let alone the man – referred to in court proceedings as E3 – being charged of any offence in Britain or elsewhere. 
The man, who was stranded in Bangladesh since 2017 when he made the journey to witness the birth of his second daughter, has now had his British citizenship reinstated. It is welcome news that he is understood to have returned to the UK two weeks ago. However, he had words of anger and angst when he remarked to the Observer:
“The allegation against me is so vague that it even suggests that I only tried to travel to some unknown destination to take part in an unspecified activity related to terrorism. How on earth do you defend yourself against an allegation like that, especially when the government relies on secret evidence? The disclosure my solicitors received was almost entirely redacted so I have no idea what the government is referring to.
“Why was I not arrested and questioned? Why have I been punished in this way without ever being shown a single piece of evidence against me? The government should admit that they have made a mistake and own up to it.” 
One of the challenges that the government faces in pushing clause 9 is that the definition of being British is not limited to one’s passport. During a debate earlier in January, many peers described a feeling of being “part of a wider family”, believing that through their service to Britain in times gone past, “they had earned the right for their children and grandchildren to be treated as equals”. However, many of the same peers feel dejected and denied such a feeling of inclusivity with the government’s clause 9 article. 
As for the woman who was granted momentary reprieve following last Wednesday’s court ruling, she was born in the UK in 1967. In addition, she is understood to have been detained at the al-Roj refugee camp since January 2019. The judges also noted in introductory background facts that the claimant “had British nationality from birth”. The government is expected to seek permission to take the Court of Appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court. 
Shaheer is a regular contributor for Islam21c. He maintains a strong interest in current affairs, as well as the changing global conditions of Muslim populations. Prior to joining Islam21c, he developed a number of years’ experience in the health and social care sector and has previously volunteered at the Muslim Youth Helpline.