Our editor says the plans are unjust and dangerous
Our justice system is founded on the principle of guilty until proven innocent. Oh, I’m sorry, I seem to have got that the wrong way around.
As, it seems, has our esteemed Home Secretary, Theresa May.
She has drawn up a nasty little last-minute addition to the immigration bill in which she wants to see foreign-born British citizens who are terror suspects stripped of their UK citizenship.
The key word here is “suspects”, of course. The proposals refer to people judged a threat to national security. Those people have not yet been tried or convicted.
May’s proposals have been shambolically thrown together in an attempt to quell backbench Tories who want anti-immigration law to go further.
But if this hurried sop to the harder right becomes law, there is the very real risk that innocent people will be kicked out of their own country, and even left stateless if they have no other citizenship – in probable contravention of the 1954 UN convention on the status of stateless persons.
The Home Secretary might say that her proposals apply only to those who “pose a serious threat” to our national security, but they are still suspects, not convicts. And we only need to remember the fatal shooting of innocent Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station in 2005 to remember just how wrong the authorities can get it when it comes to terror “suspects”.
This legislation would open the door for government to begin systematically removing foreign-born British citizens from the country, permanently, on the woolly grounds that they “suspect” them
There may be those among you, perhaps, who will pick up on the fact that this measure only applies to “foreign-born” British citizens. The fact that a British citizen was born overseas shouldn’t make any difference to their legal treatment by the state.
Two in five of London’s workforce were born overseas. I’m sure many among you reading this holding British citizenship will have been born overseas too. Should the government in theory be able to kick you out the country and take away your British passport before you have been found guilty of anything?
It is deeply troubling to realise how a new law like this could be abused in the coming years. We might (or might not) trust May to deploy her plan in the manner that she says, and reserve it for extreme and rare cases.
But this legislation would open the door for a future (or present) government to begin systematically removing foreign-born British citizens from the country, permanently, on the woolly grounds that they “suspect” them.
It is little surprise that Liberty has called the plans “irresponsible and unjust”, and that the plans look likely to contravene a range of international human rights treaties.
And what if a suspect is in fact a terrorist? Where will they go when the government kicks them out of this country?
The obvious answer is that they will most likely be taken in by a country that is animus to the UK.
What a jolly good idea, Theresa! Kicking terrorists out of the UK and forcing them to go and live in countries hostile to us, where, snubbed by the UK government, they can rile themselves up further in hotbeds of anti-UK terrorism.
What excellent stewardship of the security of our nation, Home Secretary!
This is such an idiotic plan that it would be risible if its potential to become law wasn’t so serious. It is at the time of writing supported by 100 MPs, including Nick Clegg.
I hope that their support of this plan comes from short-sightedness rather than something much darker.
If our justice system and the relative safety of our country are to be upheld, then this ridiculous, dangerous plan must be stopped as urgently as it was drawn up.