This article explains how the shift from birthright principle to parentage citizenship, which the 1960's legislation came to epitomize, was bound to lead to difficulties for citizens and state alike. The argument will be advanced that legal machinations in citizenship laws are to date an unedifying spectacle of a departure from what was once a classic principle of law. Indeed, such is the opprobrium that attaches to the event that Kevin Wilson has cautioned the United States against using anti-immigrant sentiment as a basis for migration law policies. The article will re-visit the East African Asians Case, including the events leading up to it, because, as will be argued, the full lessons of this case have still not been entirely learned by governments and lawyers alike. The East African Asians Case became a cause célèbre amongst human rights lawyers, in part because it highlighted how issues of race and culture can distort the policy-making process, destroying a person‘s legal and civil status in a community. Legal policy on an issue of such fundamental importance should not be distorted in this way. Principle should not be sacrificed to ill-conceived expediency.To fill this in for non-UK readers, the text of the article explains:
In the East African Asians Case, a group of British citizens of Asian descent living in East Africa, and lacking the parentage connection to Britain, were denied admission when they sought to enter the country in 1970. The European Commission on Human Rights resoundingly found that racial discrimination, to which the applicants had been publicly subjected by the application of UK immigration legislation, constituted an interference with their human dignity, which in the special circumstances of the case amounted to ‘degrading treatment’ in the sense of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.6 ‘Degrading treatment’ means interferences with human dignity of a particularly serious nature. The fact that the applicants had historical and cultural associations with the United Kingdom, but not racial connections, only helped to underscore how differential treatment by a state can become unacceptable, as did the fact that such differential treatment was carried but by a European country in respect of one of its own nationals.Developments in the U.K. in the 1960s were in response, in particular, to Asian immigration from Kenya, which became independent in 1963. The other East African country with an especially important crisis over Asian citizenship was Uganda. The 1970 East Africa Asians case preceded by a couple of years the mass expulsion of Asians from Uganda by Idi Amin.
Juss's article provides an interesting comparison with the expansion of immigration in the United States in the 1960s. Jack Chin has just posted an article on this topic, noted here with more recently posted works.