Theresa May’s Other Citizens of Nowhere
British Prime Minister Theresa May has embraced the revocation of individuals’ citizenship as a counterterrorism measure. In fact, no country has gone further than May's UK in normalizing this immoral and ineffective policy.
VIENNA– British Prime Minister Theresa May has, of her own volition, stripped her Conservative Party of its governing parliamentary majority by calling an early election. If she stays on as prime minister, she will also strip British citizens of the political and economic rights conferred by membership in the European Union. But May’s habit of stripping away people’s rights and powers is not new: for years, she has been normalizing the practice of stripping certain Britons of their citizenship altogether, even at the risk of rendering them stateless “citizens of nowhere.”
During the United Kingdom’s just-concluded election campaign, May promised to change or nullify any human-rights laws that “get in the way” of fighting terrorism. This is a credible threat: May herself has pioneered the practice of revoking individuals’ citizenship, usually in the name of national security, but sometimes as a form of symbolic punishment.
Depriving people of their citizenship is immoral – and ineffective. And it has a dark history. During the twentieth century, totalitarian states set records in denationalization: 1.5 million people in the Soviet Union alone were stripped of their citizenship.