The Global Committee for Fair Citizenship Law in Bangladesh (GCFCLB) handed in the proposals in relation to the Proposed Citizenship Act to Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Mr Md Nazmul Quaunine on 6th of April on behalf of the Global Committee for Fair Citizenship Law in Bangladesh (GCFCLB) to be sent to the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The delegates who met the High Commissioner included veteran community Leader Alhaj SM Alauddin Ahmed, renowned Barrister Mr Nazir Ahmed and renowned businessman and community activist Mr Munir Khan. First Secretary Mr Mohammad Monirul Islam Kabir was present at that time,
Proposals from the Global Committee for Fair Citizenship Law in Bangladesh (GCFCLB) to amend the draft Bangladesh Citizenship Bill 2016/2017
In February 2016, the Cabinet of Bangladesh government approved the above Bill, paving the way for it to go through the parliamentary procedure at a suitable time and become law. That procedure is yet to be initiated.
Meanwhile, in the course of last one year we, the Bangladeshis all over the world, in particular British Bangladeshis, through writing in the media, meetings, seminars and representations to the government, highlighted the numerous flaws in the draft. We expressed serious concerns that if the draft were implemented without substantial changes, it would severely affect Bangladesh’s economic interests as well as the interests of over two million Bangladeshis living in the UK, USA, Europe, Canada, Australia and other parts of the world.
It is to the credit of Bangladesh government that it has now publicly accepted the need for review of the draft. However, on 9th February 2017 in a seminar in Dhaka the Law Minister Mr Anisul Haque outlined the areas the government is considering changing, which we find to be woefully inadequate in curing the ills in the draft. Our concerns and fears remain substantially unchanged. We therefore set out below our main proposals for amendments of the draft to the government of Bangladesh in summary form (Detailed arguments for each proposal and more, will also be forwarded to the government and is available on request).
- S. 5 of the draft provides the right to citizenship by descent to only the first generation of Bangladeshis born outside the country. It is estimated that this would deny Bangladeshi citizenships by descent to over 600,000 second and subsequent generations of Bangladeshis born in various parts of the world mentioned above. They would be regarded in Bangladesh as foreigners to all intents and purposes. The consequences would be that the two million plus Bangladeshis of all generations would lose incentive in investing, participating in development activities and retaining their assets in Bangladesh. Furthermore, the younger generations of Bangladeshis born in the West are probably the best educated, most resourceful and productive Bangladeshis anywhere in the world. It is demonstrably in Bangladesh’s interests to do everything to encourage these people not to lose their Bangladeshi identity and its culture. One way of doing so is by regarding them as Bangladeshi citizens by descent rather than alienating them as the draft section purports to do. We therefore propose that the draft section is amended to read: “A person born outside of Bangladesh would be a citizen of Bangladesh provided that their father or mother is a citizen of Bangladesh by birth or descent.”
- S. 6 of the draft appears to allow some people of Bangladeshi descent, under government’s rules and on conditions, to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship as expatriates (probashi). If Bangladesh views the younger and future generations of Bangladeshis born abroad as an asset that needs to be encouraged to retain their Bangladeshi identity, then by making it as though their citizenship right is a favour to be bestowed by the government to those who apply and fulfil its conditions, does the very opposite. We submit that it is unrealistic to expect that this section would be of much practical use, and in any case the suggested amendment of s.5 above, makes this section redundant. We therefore propose that it should be removed from the draft.
- S. 7 of the draft read together with s. 13 imposes a number of limitations on dual citizens (s. 8), and hands the power to the government to impose any other restrictions it wishes. As regards the latter, determining citizenship rights is a matter for the legislature alone in concordance with the Constitution and it would be unconstitutional, undemocratic and unlawful to delegate such powers to the executive.
Regarding the limitations stated in the draft section, we applaud the government for its announced decision to remove the restrictions concerning dual citizens’ right to political activities and participation in local government elections in Bangladesh. However, the government’s refusal to change the daft concerning prohibiting dual citizens from appointment in any kind of government work including as Supreme Court Judges, remains of deep concern. This would turns dual citizens into second class citizens in Bangladesh and be in breach of citizens’ fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. We also consider that this denial is totally against Bangladesh’s interests as it excludes some of its best educated and talented citizens with experiences of working in most advanced economies in the world, from contributing in Bangladesh’s progress. In a highly competitive world far from being exclusive, Bangladesh should find ways of utilising its talent pool abroad to its maximum advantage. (Restrictions regarding standing in parliamentary elections and for President of the country are contained in the Constitution and as such serves no purpose in their inclusion in this draft). We therefore propose that ss. 7 and 13 are removed from the draft in their entirety.
- S. 8(1) of the draft introduces dual citizenship which we welcome. However, it is necessary that each dual citizen is provided with an identity card to enjoy their citizens’ rights and fulfil their citizens’ obligations in Bangladesh. We therefore propose that a new subsection be added under s. 8 to read: “All duel citizens will be entitled to obtain dual citizenship cards by applying, in compliance with the rules, to the Bangladesh Mission in the country of their residence, and such cards would have the same status as the national identity cards issued to citizens in Bangladesh.”
- S. 20 of the draft deals with the revocation of citizenship. This is an understandable but drastic step with far reaching consequences for the individual concerned. We find the grounds listed are too wide and arbitrary, therefore, susceptible to misuse by the executive. In addition the lack of due process protection makes it seriously unfair. We therefore propose that s 20 be redrafted to limit the grounds for removal of citizenship and a new provision be added either introducing the right to appeal to a court of law or, better still, providing for the decision to be made in the first place by the court and not the executive.
- We fear that the complaints, crime and the bail provisions in ss. 21, 22 and 23 may be used inappropriately to harass dual citizens. We consider that these sections are unnecessary as this is a civil legislation and in any case, the crime of deception, which these sections purport to regulate, is covered by the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. We therefore propose that these sections be removed from the draft.
- In the draft, the provisions regarding taking away of birth citizenship or refusal of citizenship to people for the misdeeds of their parents smacks of medieval practices , wholly unworthy of a modern and civilised country like Bangladesh. Furthermore, these provisions breach a number of international treaties and charters, and are likely to be ultra vires. We therefore propose removal of the provisions which deny citizenship rights to people on accounts of any misdeeds of their parents.