The Government’s proposed new laws to enhance the Home Affairs Minister’s powers to strip citizenship from dual nationals would unnecessarily place Australians and their children at risk of statelessness and harm, the Human Rights Law Centre has warned a parliamentary committee this week.
"If Parliament passes this bill, we could see people banished to countries they’ve never even visited for crimes that were not even serious enough for a court to impose a prison sentence," warned Director of Legal Advocacy, Emily Howie.
"Worse still, their children could face the same fate, or families could be torn apart."
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is reviewing the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Strengthening the Citizenship Loss Provisions) Bill 2018 that would broaden the range of offences that can trigger citizenship removal and, for many of the offences, remove the safeguard requiring that a person be sentenced to at least six years for the offence.
Currently only a dual citizen can be stripped of their Australian citizenship, but this bill will leave the determination of a person’s dual citizenship to the "satisfaction of" the minister, limiting the scope to challenge the minister’s decision in the courts.
"Removing a person’s citizenship is a drastic measure. As we’ve learnt from parliament’s section 44 debacle, it’s difficult to determine whether a person is a dual citizen. If the minister gets it wrong families could be left stateless and at risk of indefinite detention in Australia. At the very least the minister’s determination should be easily reviewable in court," said Ms Howie.
The Government has provided no justification for giving the minister such extraordinary powers in breach of international law.
"Of course Australia can decide who is a citizen and who is not, but it must not do so at the risk of making people stateless. This bill dangerously removes the safeguards in the current scheme. The reality is that the minister already has the power to remove the citizenship from dual nationals who are convicted of serious terrorist offences and serving sentences of at least six years. These new powers are simply not required – it’s complete overkill," said Ms Howie.
For interviews call:
Tom Clarke, Director of Campaigns, Human Rights Law Centre, 0422 545 763