UK Home Office under investigation over citizenship data

UK Home Office under investigation over number of Brits in Syria stripped of citizenship
3 min read
29 March, 2021
The UK Home Office is being investigated after failing to provide accurate information about the number of people who have been deprived to their citizenship.
Thousands of people with suspected links to IS are being held in Al-Hol [Getty]
The UK Home Office is facing an investigation after failing to reveal the number of British women who have been stripped of their UK citizenships, after travelling abroad to join the Islamic State group (IS), according to The Guardian.

The data was requested by a human rights group that monitor the conditions of British women kept in camps in north eastern Syria, but following the refusal of the Home Office the case has been taken up by the information commissioner. 

According to Rights and Security International the Home Office refused to reveal the number of British women in the camps and the number of those whose citizenship is at risk.

"We need to know about any risk of discrimination or other patterns of gender-related harm when the government takes people’s British citizenship away," Alison Huyghe, advocacy officer with Rights and Security International, told The Guardian.

Since the fall of IS in 2019, the UK has stripped British nationals who went to join the Islamist group of their citizenship, claiming that the individuals represent a threat to national security and should not be allowed to return to the country. 

Under British law, an individual can be stripped of their citizenship if the home secretary judges it to be "conducive to the public good" but only in circumstances where another nationality is available to them.

Shamima Begum has become the most high-profile British women to lose her citizenship, and a legal challenge in the supreme court to allow her to return failed last month. 

Two further women, known only as C3 and C4, were successful in overturning the court’s decision after it was determined they were unable to claim Bangladeshi citizenship. 

Between 2014 and 2018, the British government stripped over a hundred people of their citizenship, and it is believed that today, 15 women and 35 children are currently being held by the Syrian Kurds in Al-Hol with no help being offered by the UK government. 

Al-Hol holds almost 62,000 people, mostly women and children, including Syrians, Iraqis and thousands from Europe and Asia, some suspected of family ties with IS fighters. Conditions in the camp have been decried by aid agencies and rights groups.

No data regarding the number of people deprived of citizenship during 2019 and 2020 has been revealed. 

Read more: Shamima Begum's media circus in the Syrian desert

In a freedom of information request, Rights and Security International asked to know how many people were deprived of citizenship during this period, and specific details about how many were women, parents, or under the age of 18. 

In response to the request the UK Home Office said that the figures would be released shortly as part of a transparency report on Disruptive and Investigatory Powers. 

"Where requests are made for details already due for publication or already publicly available, the Freedom of Information Act does not compel disclosure," said a spokesperson from the Home Office. 

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