National outrage over UK Borders Bill as tens of thousands demand Clause 9 removal

National outrage over UK Borders Bill as tens of thousands demand Clause 9 removal
5 min read
10 December, 2021
Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that Clause 9 of the UK Nationality and Borders Bill be removed. The clause allows the British government to strip an individual of their citizenship without notice.
The petition had more than 134,000 signatories by Friday afternoon [Getty]  

Over 130,000 people have signed a petition calling for the removal of Clause 9 from the UK Nationality and Borders Bill, passed in the House of Commons this week. 

Clause 9 of the controversial legislation allows the Secretary of State to strip an individual of their citizenship without notice - if it is deemed not “reasonably practicable” to give warning or not in the interest of national security, diplomatic relations or otherwise. 

Outrage erupted across the UK following the bill’s passing, with thousands of people demanding the clause be removed on an online UK Government and Parliament petition. 

“We believe this is unacceptable and inconsistent with international human rights obligations,” said the petition, which had 134,091 signatories at the time this article was written. 

Only four days ago the petition had under 5,000 signatures. 

Numbers jumped from around 12,600 early on 8 December - the day the bill was passed in the Commons - to nearly twice that amount by that evening.

Nearly six million people in England and Wales could be adversely impacted by the bill, based on data from the UK Office of National Statistics.  This includes 410,000 dual nationals born in the UK, as well as 5.2 million people born abroad. 

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, slammed the bill over concerns that his wife, currently held hostage in Iran, could be stripped of her British citizenship - thus further endangering her safety and chances of returning home. 

Richard told The New Arab: “I raised the new Nationality and Borders Bill with the Foreign Office a couple of weeks back - specifically following the statements by Ministers in recent weeks on Nazanin’s case where they refused to acknowledge her Britishness but insisted on referring to her as a dual national.

"At the beginning, I just thought those statements were simply racist - a way of distancing themselves and public understandings from their abandonment of obligations to protect, and political signalling to their base that Nazanin didn’t really matter, but was only second-tier British.

"But following clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, that language has felt a lot more ominous - like the government really is trying to create a two-tier citizenship in law for those presenting an inconvenience to government interests."

The clause stipulating that citizenship can be removed to improve diplomatic relations with another country gives Richard particular cause for concern. 

After his 21-day hunger strike, Mr Ratcliffe continues to lobby the government to pay a £400 million historic debt owed by the British government to Iran. The debt has been linked to the release of Nazanin as well as other British citizens taken hostage, such as Anoosheh Ashoori.

Activist have expressed alarm that Clause 9 will be used to target certain communities - such as British Muslims. 

Kashif Iqbal, a British-Pakistani from Glasgow - who set up another petition on Charge.org - told The National that the bill is “especially problematic to British Asian Muslims against whom this law has been used and who will now live in fear as migrants in the UK”. 

MEND, an organisation tackling Islamophobia in the UK, told The New Arab: “Beyond giving the Home Secretary even more draconian powers to remove someone’s citizenship, the Nationality and Borders Bill has been criticised as breaching international and domestic law in at least ten different ways.” 

After passing in the Commons, with 298 MPs in support and 231 against, the bill now goes to the House of Lords. 

The Lords will debate the legislation at its second reading stage on 5 January 2022. 

“We urge the Lords to oppose Clause 9 of the Bill and the continuing attack on human rights and international law that the bill represents as a whole.” 

The bill has also been condemned by the public and rights groups for penalising refugees, as it seeks to use someone’s means of arrival to determine how worthy they are of protection in the UK. This means migrants travelling in small boats - many of whom are fleeing violence and persecution - could be denied protection in Britain despite legitimate claims for asylum. 

“The Nationality and Borders Bill is set to significantly curtail the rights of refugees,” said Rose Carter, Direct of Policy at Hope not hate, a UK anti-fascism campaign group. 

“Cracking down harder does not fix an immigration system that makes it harder for people to seek refuge, keeps families apart for years and wrongly deports people.” 

The New Arab contacted the UK Home Office, who did not respond with a statement but referred to one of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s previous tweets. 

Patel said: “This Bill is the cornerstone of our firm but fair #NewPlanForImmigration. 

“It will deliver on what the British people have voted for time & time again - for the UK to take back control of its borders.” 

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said Patel's asylum plans would be in violation of international law, saying the proposals would make asylum seekers feel "unworthy and unwelcome".