Exiled: the disturbing story of a citizen made unBritish

Kamila Shamsie in The Guardian:

A couple of years ago, while working on my novel Home Fire, which required me to look into certain aspects of the UK’s citizenship laws, I had a slightly painful conversation with one of my oldest friends. Like me, she had grown up in Karachi. But while I didn’t move to the UK until the age of 34, she came here at 18 to go to university, and has never left. She became a British citizen soon after graduating (her grandmother was British); later, she married an Englishman, and they had a son. Her son was born in London, has never lived anywhere but here. But the painful thing I had to tell her was this: unlike many children who are born and live in the UK, her son’s claim on UK citizenship was contingent rather than assured. He was a British citizen, yes, but he could be made unBritish.

The reason for this stemmed from her decision, made soon after her son was born, to get him a POC – a Pakistan Origin Card. This bit of paperwork, issued by the Pakistan High Commission, meant that her son wouldn’t need to go through the expense and hassle of applying for a visa every time she wanted to travel with him to Pakistan where his grandmother and aunt and cousins lived. At the time my friend made this decision she was unaware of a change in the immigration laws that had come into force a few years earlier, in 2003, allowing for people who had acquired British citizenship through birth to be legally deprived of citizenship – provided they were dual nationals who weren’t going to be made stateless. This wasn’t the first time that those who were British by birth could be made unBritish. Prior to 1948 if you chose to become a naturalised citizen of some other country then you lost your British citizenship. Also, until 1948 any British woman who married a foreign national lost her citizenship – the undoing of this misogynist law was the result of years of campaigning by feminists and their allies in the House of Commons. It only seems right to acknowledge this, because there’s no point discussing discriminatory laws if we don’t remember that such laws can be and have been successfully challenged in the past.

More here.