The Australian Government should repeal laws that strip Australian dual nationals of their citizenship and place them at an unacceptable risk of the statelessness, family separation and indefinite detention, the Human Rights Law Centre said in a submission to a Parliamentary committee.
Amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act that allow the Minister for Home Affairs to remove citizenship from dual nationals are currently being reviewed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
Emily Howie, Legal Director with the Human Rights Law Centre, said that although Australia has the power to determine who its nationals are, it must not use that power arbitrarily or in such a way that leaves people stateless.
“The citizenship stripping provisions are excessive, unreasonable and lack effective safeguards. Citizenship can be lost for engaging in lower level criminal conduct that was never intended to trigger such a severe consequence, and in some circumstances without a court or independent determining that the relevant conduct occurred. This means people can have their citizenship removed based on false information, in a scheme with insufficient opportunities to rectify incorrect decisions,” said Howie.
The loss of Australian citizenship means the loss of the right to vote, to run for office and to enter and remain in Australia. Once citizenship is lost, people are likely to become subject to Australia’s immigration law and are unlikely to be allowed to remain in or return to Australia.
“The consequences of citizenship removal are devastating. Stripping a person’s citizenship impacts on their whole life. It can separate families, and wrong decisions could leave a person stateless and indefinitely detained. Unfortunately the law doesn’t properly protect people from mistakes at a bureaucratic level, with secretive decision making processes and inadequate opportunities to review adverse decisions. Worse still, children as young as ten can have their citizenship removed and face the same fate." said Howie.
Under the provisions, citizenship can be stripped from dual nationals who fight for an enemy force or terrorist organisation, engage in certain proscribed criminal conduct or are convicted of certain offences.
“These laws were introduced in order to protect the community and uphold the value of allegiance to Australia, but they’re drafted so broadly that people can lose their citizenship for less serious conduct that doesn’t endanger the community or bear on allegiance at all,” said Howie.
The citizenship stripping provisions were introduced in 2015. Since then at least one person’s citizenship has been revoked based on an incorrect assumption of dual nationality. The Home Affairs Minister revoked Neil Prakash’s Australian citizenship, even though Prakash did not have Fijian citizenship.
"As we’ve learnt from Parliament’s section 44 debacle, it’s difficult and complex to determine whether a person is a dual citizen. The law fails to establish a scheme that would ensure, at the very least, that a person is in fact a dual national before they lose their citizenship. The provisions are fatally flawed and ought to be repealed," said Howie.
Download the HRLC’s Submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security on the operation, effectiveness and implications of the citizenship stripping provisions. The submission recommends that the provisions are repealed, but also ways to mitigate the worst aspects of the provisions.
Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519