British Citizens Fear Another Windrush Scandal Over Nationality & Borders Bill

  • Powers granted under a new law would allow the Home Office to strip an individual’s British citizenship without giving them notice.
  • But the move has been likened to the Windrush scandal, with one victim branding it “disturbing”.
  • “People are still destitute… while a policy that is going to create another Windrush is being passed into law,” said one campaigner.

A controversial new immigration bill could lay the groundwork for a new Windrush-style scandal, in which thousands of British people were wrongly deported or told they were living in the UK illegally, victims have warned.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, includes a clause enabling the Home Office to strip an individual’s British citizenship without giving them notice.

The Home Office has been able to remove citizenship from British citizens since 2005, but this new move has sparked concern because of the number of people it could apply to – and the lack of options they have afterwards. The New Statesman estimates that up to 6 million UK citizens could be affected by the change in law, including two-in-five people from a non-white ethnic minority background.

Anthony Williams, a victim of the Windrush scandal who served in the British army for 13 years, said the legislation had left him feeling even further marginalized. 

In 2013, Williams was one of the thousands of Black British citizens who was wrongly told he was living in the UK illegally, resulting in him becoming destitute for five years because he was unable to work.

“The way I interpret what they’re trying to do is really disturbing,” he said. “I didn’t spend 13 years in the army for nothing. I was willing to give up my life for this country — and now for someone to turn around and make me a third-class citizen.”

Ramya Jaidev, a spokesperson for the campaign group Windrush Lives, said the threat of losing citizenship without notice had created new fear among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.

“It’s a feeling of insecurity and of being precarious,” she told Insider.

The government has said it would only issue deprivation orders without notice in extreme circumstances, and Home Office minister Kevin Foster has accused some opponents of the bill of “scaremongering”.

The Home Office has emphasized that the “change is simply about the process of notification”, with the government having power to remove citizenship for more than a century.  

But Jaideve said the government had lost the “moral authority” to claim it would only use new powers in exceptional circumstances after the Windrush scandal, particularly because thousands of Windrush victims are still waiting to be compensated by the Home Office — including Williams.

“The Windrush scandal isn’t complete in any way. The compensation scheme is a mess, we’re fighting it all the time.

“Even [among] the people who’ve had their claims to nationality recognized, people are still destitute and broke and in poverty. All of these things are still happening while a policy that is going to create another Windrush is being passed into law.” 

The wide-reaching nature of the new powers has alarmed groups up and down the country.

Zara Mohammed, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, told Insider the legislation would disproportionately impact ethnic minority communities.

“It really cuts as an affront to human rights and for many people, it poses quite a threat — to their citizenship but also to their feeling of belonging. They’ve been in this country for decades and I think the government now is suddenly posing this idea that they can just strip you of your citizenship [without notice].”

She said there were significant concerns, particularly among British Muslims with dual nationalities that, they faced being stripped of their citizenship while abroad.

“The worry is that they could be visiting their home country and without notice be told they’ve stripped of their citizenship: It’s the idea the state has this power,” she said.

“And because you’re not getting a notification and you’re outside the country, it becomes very difficult to appeal — almost impossible,” she said.

Others shared similar concerns that the legislation would lead to a degradation of rights for people with dual nationalities.

Gurpreet Singh Anand, chairman of the Sikh Council, said the change in law could hand foreign governments a mechanism to try and pursue political critics. 

“I can be critical quite often of the Indian government,” he said. “If it’s deemed that I have a pathway to Indian citizenship, or the Indians happen to issue me with an Indian passport, it provides a very easy and convenient method, without any legal recourse, for me to be removed from this country or denied entry back into this country if I’ve gone to visit relatives in India.”

He added: “Citizenship has become a privilege.” 

Laura S., who asked for her surname not to be shared, is an Italian-British dual national who has lived in the UK for almost 30 years. She said that while she was not concerned she would be targeted directly by the legislation, it set a dangerous precedent. 

“I’m not concerned for my personal safety or that I’ll be deported tomorrow: It’s the principle they’ve introduced,” she said. “It’s really sinister they won’t even [need to] tell you they have removed your British nationality.”

Insider contacted the Home Office for comment.

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