Dual citizens in UK could lose citizenship in new bill

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Under new legislation being considered in the UK, the home secretary would be able to strip dual nationals of their British citizenship as easily as he can remove or exclude foreign nationals from the UK. Even Britons born in the UK would be covered by the powers, included in the immigration, asylum and nationality bill as part of the government's anti-terrorism drive, but overshadowed by the furore over the terrorism bill.

The clauses are understood to be criticised in a report the parliamentary committee on human rights will publish on Dec. 5, the day before the bill receives its second reading in the Lords.

Until now the home secretary has only been able to act if the British citizenship of dual nationals is "seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK": for instance, if they are spies. Under the proposed laws, he could deprive them of citizenship and the right of abode if it would be "conducive to the public good".

"Recent developments in London have caused a rethink. The government believes the [existing] test is too restrictive," said a Home Office spokesman. But the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association has said there is no established principle in international law for a country expelling its own nationals. Alison Harvey, the ILPA's legal officer, said: "You could have your British nationality taken away from you even if your other one was meaningless to you."

Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who opposed the change, said: "It is hypocritical for the government to say that people should respect the duties of citizenship and then remove it on such a low test. This is almost certainly in breach of human rights and will not be perceived well in ethnic minority communities, where it is most likely to apply." Keith Vaz, former Labour minister, said the bill was controversial and had not received enough parliamentary scrutiny.