Lisa Smith cannot be stripped of Irish citizenship, legal conference hears

UK-born Shamima Begum had her citizenship revoked by the UK Home Office

Islamic state supporter Lisa Smith could not be stripped of her Irish citizenship in the same way the UK did to one of its own citizens due to a difference in the law between the two countries, a legal conference has heard.   Photograph: BBC

Islamic state supporter Lisa Smith could not be stripped of her Irish citizenship in the same way the UK did to one of its own citizens due to a difference in the law between the two countries, a legal conference has heard. Photograph: BBC

 

Islamic state supporter Lisa Smith could not be stripped of her Irish citizenship in the same way the UK did to one of its own citizens due to a difference in the law between the two countries, a legal conference has heard.

On Friday, a newly established association of barristers heard of a “tidal wave” of asylum and citizenship applications, and analysed various aspects of immigration and citizenship law, including the Smith case.

The former member of the Irish Defence Forces is expected to return home following the collapse of the Islamic State caliphate in Syria which she had joined.

Hers and similar cases around the world have provoked debate on how western countries should deal with their nationals.

UK-born Shamima Begum had her citizenship revoked by the Home Office. Her son later died in a refugee camp and her case is currently under appeal in the British courts.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Ms Smith (38) is an Irish citizen and has the right to return home.

Conference

Addressing the inaugural conference of the Immigration, Asylum & Citizenship Bar Association (IACBA) in Dublin on Friday, senior council Siobhán Stack said the way in which the two cases had been treated was a result of key differences in law.

“In Ireland, only naturalised citizens (not born in Ireland) may be deprived of their citizenship. This contrasts with the British Nationality Act, 1981, which permits deprivation of citizenship even where it was acquired by birth,” she set out in her conference paper.

“Revocation of a certificate of naturalisation in this jurisdiction can occur even if to do so would render the person stateless, but the British Nationality Act, 1981, provides that deprivation cannot occur where to do so would render the person stateless.”

Also addressing the conference, Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell of the Supreme Court said it was not “an exaggeration to say that the number of applications now in the field of immigration, asylum and citizenship create a tidal wave, both in relation to the State authorities that have to deal with and process the applications and the courts in which those decisions are reviewed.”

He said it was important “at the most basic level” that practitioners were going in the right direction in terms of an area of law that is relatively new to Ireland.

International protection

In recent time, the number of applications for international protection - including those seeking refugee status - have been increasing. The conference heard there were 3,673 applications last year and so far this year that number had risen to 4,198, an increase of about 40 per cent.

“The stakes on both sides are extremely important,” Mr Justice O Donnell said. “On the one hand a possible life changing decision in respect of an applicant and on the other side the vital interest of the State in protecting its borders, determining who should be its citizens and who can be permitted to reside here. And no one on either side should expect indulgence.”

He spoke of “troubling” developments elsewhere in the world, notably the recent emergence of tent accommodation set up by the US government on the Mexican border.

“(These are) staffed by administrative officials with no guarantee of judicial independence who are expected to decide 700 cases a day from a safe distance by video conference.”

He also criticised the Australian system of dealing with asylum seekers and said it was “all the more disturbing” to hear of UK ambitions to adopt an Australian-style points based immigration system.

Ms Smith is expected back in Ireland this weekend.