Here's How The Government Can Strip Citizenship From An Australian
Australian terrorist Neil Prakash has become the most recent person to have his Australian citizenship stripped after fighting for the Islamic State.
The Australian government revoked Prakash's citizenship based on the belief that he is also a Fijian citizen, with current laws allowing Australian citizenship to be stripped so long as a person wouldn't be rendered stateless.
But Fiji has said Prakash can't go to the country because "because he does not qualify" to be a citizen of their nation.
The international diplomatic dispute has many questions still to be answered.
Can the Australian government legally revoke Prakash's citizenship if he's not considered a national of another state? Will Prakash be rendered stateless? Is he already stateless?
In fact, if you're a dual citizen of Australia and another nation, your Aussie citizenship isn't as absolute as you might think.
The Minister for Home Affairs has the power to strip Australian citizenship under current law.
You can lose your citizenship for providing false information in your citizenship application, failing to comply with special residence requirements, being the child of a responsible parent who ceases to be Australian, or you could renounce it.
In 2015, the government added new provisions to the Australian Citizenship Act that gave them the power to revoke citizenship based on someone being inconsistent with their alliance to Australia.
Basically, these laws say that anyone who acts against their allegiance to Australia automatically renounces their citizenship by virtue of their actions. A court of law is not required to rule on the matter.
"This is a novel and expansive view of the concept of allegiance, which goes to he heart of Australian nationhood and the relationship between the Australian state and its people," the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at the University Of Melbourne wrote in a submission to an inquiry before the bill was made law.
"... this should take place through a careful, informed, public and deliberative process. It should not be determined incidentally, as a by-product, of the enactment of a Bill of this kind."
When the changes were made, some lawyers were concerned that the laws blurred the lines between citizenship and criminal law.
"What I would prefer is that these sort of activities that are clearly unacceptable in our liberal democratic society should be dealt with through the criminal law system rather than using citizenship law as a form of punishment", citizenship expert Professor Kim Rubenstein, from the Australian National University, told SBS in 2015.
Former Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg claimed on Twitter that the government had "breached international standards" and that its actions had rendered Prakash stateless.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton defended his department's decision to revoke Prakash's Australian citizenship on Wednesday, claiming he is simply upholding laws passed under former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
"Changes to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 were passed by Parliament to ensure Australians holding dual citizenship and fighting with terrorists could never again enjoy the privileges of being an Australian," Dutton said in a statement.
"The Government will continue to review the cases of Australians known to be fighting for terrorist organisations to determine whether they have repudiated their allegiance to this country and in turn their Australian citizenship for those who are dual nationals."
Australia is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and is therefore, obliged to work to reduce the number of people without a home country.
"Statelessness a big problem. So we have a statelessness convention that Australia is a signatory of and therefore, they should take steps to eradicate people being stateless," Principal Solicitor at Refugee Advice and Casework Service Sarah Dale told 10 daily.
"People that don't have citizenship are not recognised as a national of any country so they are unable to get identity documents, drivers licenses or bank cards. These people exist off the books."
In fact, over 12 million people worldwide are stateless, according to the United Nations. Australia has agreed to work towards reducing this number.
"We also have the obligation that if people are stateless, we help them become registered," Dale said.
The United Nations has said rendering a person stateless is discrimination, as it prevents people from accessing the rights that others in the same nation enjoy.
"Statelessness results in widespread denial of human rights and the phenomenon of statelessness itself violates the universal human right to a nationality," the Secretary-General's note on Statelessness reads.
"Statelessness often leads to limits on access to birth registration, identity documentation, education, health care, legal employment, property ownership, political participation and freedom of movement."
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