ZG & SA
We include two case studies that exemplify successful appeals against the refusal of naturalisation. These cases have taken a decade and a half from the point of the first application for naturalisation in 2000 to the final judgement reached by SIAC in favour of their naturalisation appeal.
In 2000, two citizens of Turkey (one of them Kurdish) applied to be naturalised as British citizens. For seven years the government were investigating their requests and refused them both on grounds of ‘good character’ in 2007. After appealing, SIAC judged the Home Secretary’s refusal of naturalisation unfair and recommended for it to be reconsidered.
ZG is a Turkish citizen in his late 50s. He came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 1991 and was subsequently granted refugee status due to risk of persecution in his home country. In 1998 he got indefinite leave to remain. In 2000, ZG applied to be naturalised as a British citizen. For the next seven years, the Home Office was making a ‘wide range of enquiries’ including tracing ZG’s activities in and outside of the UK.
While he was waiting for his naturalisation decision, his wife and children’s applications for citizenship were successful. It took another two years for ZG to find out that his application for British citizenship had been refused. A Home Office letter send to ZG on the 7th June 2007 followed the familiar argument applied in the ‘good character’ criteria:
‘Your application for British citizenship has been refused on the ground that the Home Secretary is not satisfied that you meet the requirement to be of good character’ (SIAC judgement 2016).
The reasons given for this assessment were ZG involvement with the Turkish Marxist group Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front or the DHKP-C, which under the Terrorism Act is listed as a ‘proscribed organisation’. According to the Secretary of State, his involvement and contribution of funds towards the organisation formed the basis for rendering him not of good character. ZG has previously argued that while he supports a change in the way Turkey is governed, he is not active in the DHKP-C.
SA is a Turkish Kurd who was born in 1960 and who came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 1990, fleeing Turkey due to his political involvement. Two years later, his application for asylum was refused, upon which he was granted a year’s exceptional leave to remain and later was granted indefinite leave to remain in 1999. He applied to become a British citizen in 2000 and seven years later, in June 2007, he was refused British citizenship on the grounds that he had not met the ‘good character’ criteria. The letter further explained that this was because of his ‘past association with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK)/KADEK/KONGRA, who are proscribed under the Terrorism Act (2000)’. (SIAC 2016).
Similarly to ZG, SA has been politically active in Turkey and on these ground the Home Secretary has refused his naturalisation application in 2007. Some of the activities listed as grounds for the refusal were: participation in an occupation of the Turkish embassy in London in 1991 in protest against the killing of a Turkish/Kurdish politician, attending a Kurdish rally in Kent, attending a Kurdish cultural festival in Holland and being questioned about his degree in which he focussed on the oppression of the Kurdish people. SA has maintained that while he sympathises with the PKK, he is not a member of the group.
In April 2016 SIAC judged that the Home Secretary’s refusals to grant ZG and SA naturalisations was ‘unfair and that the decisions should be quashed’. While SIAC recommended the Secretary of State to ‘reconsider the applications’, the judgement is not binding in any way. This means that the Home Secretary can still refuse to grant naturalisation to the individuals. As the SIAC judgement states itself, the favourable decision was reached partly due to the fact surrounding the individuals’ involvement in the listed groups and party due to the unusually long timeframe of both cases.