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Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

Citizenship stripping on the rise: New study shows Europe at the epicentre

A new report has been published by the Global Citizenship Observatory (GLOBALCIT) and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion.

29 March 2022

One in five countries globally have introduced or expanded the power to deprive citizens of their nationality “on the grounds of disloyalty, national security or terrorism”, says a new study published today by the Global Citizenship Observatory and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion. 

Europe is at the epicentre of renewed interest in citizenship stripping: 18 of the 37 countries that expanded their powers are in this region. Among these 18 countries we have several EU countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, but also Norway and the United Kingdom.

The report ‘Instrumentalising citizenship in the fight against terrorism: How have deprivation powers evolved since 9/11? offers the first comprehensive global analysis of nationality deprivation powers and how these have evolved in the war against terrorism.

While under international law, everyone has the right to a nationality, including the right to not be arbitrarily deprived of it, 70% of countries currently provide in their law for the possibility to deprive citizens of nationality “due to disloyalty, treason, nationality security or involvement in terrorism”. 3/4 of countries lack safeguards to prevent statelessness. Moreover, many laws employ vague language, the interpretation of which is at the discretion of the authority in charge, creating legal uncertainty and the possibility for powers to be 'stretched' and abused.

“Our report shows that nationality deprivation powers typically apply only to naturalised citizens, who are often from minority groups”, said Maarten Vink, Chair in Citizenship Studies at the European University Institute. “This increases both direct and indirect discrimination and serves to both bolster and justify racist, xenophobic and populist narratives.”

The report points to a number of cases of individuals who have been stripped of nationality to reveal the various potential consequences, including expulsion back to the country of former nationality; remaining in limbo in the country of former nationality due to obstacles to deportation and becoming the burden of a third country because there is nowhere to send the person to.

However, the analysis also shows that 15 countries either completely repealed deprivation powers or significantly limited them. These countries, based mainly in the Americas and Asia Pacific Region, demonstrate that political decisions to broaden deprivation powers are not irreversible.

The study is now available here.

Last update: 29 March 2022

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