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07.01.2022, 23:43 263

Why all British Turkish Cypriots should care about Clause 9

Very few British Turkish Cypriots I’ve spoken to in the past month have heard of Clause 9, despite it being a hot topic of conversation on the lips of millions of UK passport-holders who could now face being stripped of their citizenship.

Turkish Cypriots in Britain are no exception to this, and no, it really doesn’t matter if you were born in this country, or even if your parents were born here. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even stepped foot outside of the UK, or if English is your only language.

Thanks to this provision, you, and your entire family, could be stripped of your British nationality without notice and deported to, well, wherever.

This new law was tabled by Home Secretary Priti Patel in November, and was approved in the House of Commons on December 8 following a discussion between MPS that lasted a mere 9 minutes.

According to the new law, the British government can take away your citizenship for a multitude of reasons.

The main argument supports of Clause 9 cite is its effectiveness as a counter-terrorism measure. During the civil wars in Syria and Iraq that plagued most of the last decade, hundreds of UK nationals went abroad to fight for groups deemed by this country to be terrorist organisations - namely, ISIS.

ISIS was largely defeated in the Middle East, and now hundreds of ISIS fighters remain imprisoned in camps in parts of Syria that are controlled by PKK-affiliated groups.

Some countries in Europe have started repatriating their citizens who can be found in these camps, bringing them back to face trial at home. The UK, however, has been offloading its judicial responsibility towards these militants and their families, instead preferring to remove them as citizens and thus deny them any right to repatriation and fair trial in the UK.

The Nationality and Borders Act 1981 already gave the UK this right over its citizens, but that required the state to give citizens notice of their citizenship being cancelled before an order to cancel it could be executed.

Now, however, the government does not need to give notice. It can simply come to a decision unilaterally that a certain individual is a danger to the public interest and state security, and denationalise them just like that. They can also do this if they feel you are a threat to the country’s diplomatic relations.

What’s more is the power to strip one of their citizenship lies wholly with the Home Secretary, and is not a decision that is made in a court of law. A pre-existing law grants the Home Secretary the power to make this decision, but citizenship stripping can only be applied to an individual who has the citizenship of another country, or if the Home Secretary believes the individual could potentially get the citizenship of another country.

All in all, this puts around 6 million British citizens who hold citizenship to other countries in the firing line, as well as anyone who might be just British but has family in other countries.

This of course includes individuals who are also citizens of Turkey and/or the Republic of Cyprus, as is the case with many people from the Turkish Cypriot community. Not only that, it could also affect Turkish Cypriots who only hold British citizenship, but have at least one parent that holds the citizenship of Turkey or the Republic of Cyprus. In the case of the latter, individuals who lose their British citizenship could potentially be left stateless. 

But I’m sure many are reading this thinking “I’m not a terrorist so I don’t have to worry”. This, however, is completely the wrong approach to take.

Clause 9 gives the British government more power than it can guarantee will always be enforced responsibly. There is no guarantee that the UK will always have a responsible government.

We are living in a climate of populist politicians and an increasingly polarised society. Negative feelings towards immigrants are at an all-time high, and Islamophobia is becoming evermore normalised.

In this climate, British Turkish Cypriots find themselves in a terribly awkward position. Regardless of levels of open religiosity, Turkish Cypriots are a predominantly Muslim community. Even if that is not necessarily factored in when it comes to our community’s opinion of itself, it is almost certainly considered in the assessments other communities make of us.

This is especially the case when it comes to how other communities generally look at the conflict in Cyprus, where British foreign policy will always be very wary of any kind of Muslim power growing strong enough to potentially undermine Britain’s influence in the region.

A large proportion of British Turkish Cypriots, if not the majority, view the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as their original homeland. Even if they’re not actively lobbying for its recognition, they support it by regularly visiting, investing and owning assets there. They have relationships, both personal and professional, with individuals who are directly participating in the preservation and protection of the TRNC.

But the UK sees the TRNC as an illegitimate occupation of a country with whom Britain shares official diplomatic relations. Although supporting the TRNC is nowhere near like a British citizen supporting a terrorist organisation like ISIS, there is nothing stopping a more fanatical Home Secretary coming along and declaring that Turkish Cypriots who are affiliated to the TRNC in any way are at odds with British interests and are therefore unfit to hold British citizenship.

The denationalisation of Turkish Cypriots is already taking place in Cyprus by the government of the Republic of Cyprus, which has recently resorted to revoking the citizenships of Turkish Cypriots who they deem to be actively supporting the “Turkish occupation” of the island, such as those who serve in the TRNC government.

With Clause 9, the same could now happen to Turkish Cypriots who are British citizens. There are actually many Turkish Cypriots who hold British citizenship but reside in the TRNC. If any of them decided to hold an official position in the TRNC, their UK passport could now be taken away without notice.

This could also be extended to British Turkish Cypriots living in the UK who wish to transfer money to someone in the TRNC who the British government might consider to be persona non grata for their role in supporting the “occupation”.

There are several scenarios one can think of in which a British Turkish Cypriot could be considered to pose a threat to the UK’s diplomatic relations in ways that aren’t necessarily related to terrorism.

It might not be on the government agenda today, but by allowing Clause 9 to remain, we would be leaving the door open for future governments in this country, who might decide to have it on their agenda, to start denationalising British Turkish Cypriots for the pettiest of reasons. Should such a day come, our default position would already start us off at a disadvantage.

This is why every British Turkish Cypriot should know about Clause 9 and stand against it, no matter what their general persuasion. They can do that by signing this online petition and writing to their MPs until the clause is overturned.

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