This is also clearly visible in the Windrush scandal, where at least 83 people previously considered British enough have been wrongly detained and deported.
Critically, the reason why the Begum case and the Windrush scandal are scandals at all is that the victims are still somehow perceived as being connected to Britain. Not to minimise the suffering of anyone, but this hierarchy of attention is even visible in the reporting of the Windrush scandal itself. Most of the media has been focused on deportations to the West Indies, missing the suffering of people considered to be lower on the hierarchy of Britishness such as West Africans and South East Asians. The suffering of people on the lowest rungs of this unjust hierarchy, such as undocumented migrants or Yemeni civilians is often completely ignored. To come back to Shamima Begum and the question of citizenship, this case is indicative of a wider necropolitical struggle that should be seen in the context of the Windrush scandal, the so-called refugee crisis and the rise of fascism around the world. The removal of Begum’s citizenship dangerous precedent, allowing the UK government to continue shrinking the legal definition of Britishness while sustaining the deportations of all it deems unfit and unwanted.
“The core values of citizenship as a concept can only be realised through the dissolution of the narrow and repressive system of national citizenship and the construction of a global citizenship.”
Despite its current exclusionary character, citizenship is not a concept corrupt to the core. The ideals of equality before the law, cooperation and civic participation that citizenship represents to some are not bad in themselves. Clearly, the problem with citizenship is that it is an arbitrary and exclusionary institution, the benefits and disadvantages of which are distributed unevenly across the globe. The core values of citizenship as a concept can only be realised through the dissolution of the narrow and repressive system of national citizenship and the construction of a global citizenship. A first step on this long road could be the institution of a global minimum wage, where every worker in the world would be guaranteed a certain level of compensation for their work. Such an initiative could start breaking down the barriers between countries by making labour arbitrage more difficult, and it could prove important in the building of universal citizenship.
Here is another idea: let the people affected by a decision take part in the decision-making process. It would seem to me that this is a fundamental aspect of democracy, but it is violated every day in the exclusion of non-citizens. In academic jargon this concept is called “politics of presence”, but for me, it is just common democratic sense.
First published Print edition May 2019. Volume 14, Issue 3. Image entitled “People, Immigration: 1st July 1962, Immigrants from the Caribbean arrive at Southampton” (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)