Briefing paper

Citizenship revocation on national security grounds: context and selected issues

Counter-terrorism Terrorism Citizenship National security Dual citizenship Australia

Current terrorism threats identified by the Australian and other Western governments include those associated with their nationals fighting with overseas terrorist and insurgent groups (‘foreign fighters’) and different forms of ‘home-grown’ terrorism. While the foreign fighter phenomenon is not new, a range of factors, including the number of individuals currently involved in conflicts in places such as Iraq and Syria, and the relatively high proportion from Western nations, has authorities worried. A key concern is the potential threat these individuals may pose to domestic security upon return.

On 24 June 2015, the Australian Government introduced a Bill that would provide that a dual national’s Australian citizenship ceases if the person engages in ‘terrorist-related conduct’. The Government has explained the rationale behind this measure from two main perspectives: safeguarding Australia’s national security, and upholding Australian values by limiting citizenship to individuals who maintain allegiance to Australia.

This paper outlines some background and context to the Government’s proposal and highlights some of the broader counter-terrorism and foreign policy issues that arise from the general proposal to revoke citizenship on national security grounds. Both aspects are intended to bring to the Parliament’s attention matters relevant to consideration of whether citizenship revocation is a suitable response to the issue at hand from a national security perspective. It does not address other aspects of the proposal, such as those relating to statelessness, broader human rights implications and whether citizenship is a right or a privilege.

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