An Australian passport.

Dangers of revoking citizenship

Amnesty Australia’s Government Relations Adviser, Guy Ragen, and Legal Governance Manager, Katie Wood, appeared before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to discuss the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015.

Amnesty Australia has made a submission on the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 2015, recommending the rejection of the Bill in its current form.

What does the Bill do?

If passed, the Bill will make a number of changes to how dual citizens can lose their Australian citizenship, including being stripped of citizenship automatically on suspicion of certain crimes – without trial, and without being convicted of that crime.

What are the dangers of revoking citizenship?

Amnesty Australia is concerned the proposed Bill could endanger an a person’s right to a nationality, fail to afford due process and a presumption of innocence and, if applied retrospectively, the existing human rights concerns will be amplified.

When a government introduces legislation that impacts on human rights, they need to strike a balance to ensure that any response is proportional – this Bill dramatically oversteps that balance. Situations could arise where the Australian Government strips citizenship from someone who has no idea they hold citizenship of another country, and has indeed never even visited that country.

Taking away a person’s citizenship is one of the most severe actions a country can take against one of its own citizens. A government should not be able to do it automatically, without trial or conviction. Under international law, Australia must provide people with a fair trial and the right to be presumed innocent.

What needs to happen?

If the Bill is to be passed, Amnesty International recommends that at a minimum, the Australian Parliament:

  • amend the Bill to only allow the loss of Australian citizenship after a fair trial and criminal conviction in a court of law
  • ensure the legislation adheres to Australia’s international legal obligations, preserving the principle that stripping citizenship is both an extraordinary measure and a last resort
  • reject the retrospective operation of the legislation
  • reject any effort to expand the legislation to cover sole nationals (an individual must never be rendered stateless by the withdrawing of Australian citizenship).