When States Take Rights Back: Questioning the Public Justifications of Citizenship Revocation

Panel Code

Keywords: revocation – citizenship – migration and nationality law – public justifications

In the field of migration and nationality law, states may resort to a principle of reversibility by which they can decide to take back the rights (and the status) that they formerly granted to individuals. This can happen in regards to refugees, to residents as well as to naturalised citizens or even citizens by birth. The processes through which the rights attached to the possession of each status are stripped are differently known (withdrawal, deprivation, cancellation, etc.) and vary across countries. We decide to focus on citizenship revocation, meaning the processes by which states decide that an individual is not ‘their’ citizen any more. In recent years, these processes have known public debates over institutional changes motivated by security imperatives (not only by the struggle against terrorism, but also by the need to fight against fraud).

This panel would like to explore the public justifications upon which citizenship revocation has been/is currently based in different countries. By public justifications, we mean the arguments that people representing a public authority (members of government/Parliament but also bureaucrats within the administration or judges in courts) formulate to give support to/to contest the legal changes in or the decisions of revocation. More specifically, this panel would like to investigate revocation in terms of:
1) conditionality: what amount of discretion do governments have in their hands in revocation processes? Has the executive’s margin for manoeuvre been extended in recent years and what have been the arguments brought forward?
2) consequentiality: what consequences does revocation have on people’s lives? What are the different (material and symbolic) objectives and the different strategies that states pursue through revocation processes?
3) bordering processes: how does revocation draw borders between individuals and/or groups and create categories? Are these categories politically, morally or even culturally conceived?

The panel welcomes proposals that will address the way revocation is used and justified in specific contexts and encourages proposals that will draw on empirical materials (such as public debates, case law, interviews with members from the administration, with judges, with people targeted by revocation, etc.).