Sikh Leader Campaigns for Khalistan, Secures British Passport After Long Legal Battle

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London – 29 September 2016

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) has finally secured his British nationality more, 40 years after coming to the UK, after a long and costly legal battle in the High Court where Theresa May, then Home Secretary, was forced to back down.

Within the British Sikh community, he has been by far the most significant personality over the last 30 years and has often been invited to give leadership and resolve internal community conflicts.  In 2011 he was given the first and only life-time achievement award by the Sikh Channel and has met Tony Blair, David Cameron and HM Queen.

Soon after the June 1984 Indian army Genocide at Sri Harmandir Sahib (popularly referred to as the Golden Temple Complex), the Indian authorities coerced the Thatcher-led government to introduce restrictions on Sikh activists, especially those vocal on the demand for a separate Sikh homeland, Khalistan. Papers released in 2014 revealed how India pressured the UK with promises of trade deals to take anti-Sikh measures.

Restrictions on British nationality became apparent in 1985 when a number of law-abiding Sikh activists were denied British nationality, including Bhai Amrik Singh. Despite several applications for British nationality from the mid-1980s to 2007, he was always denied.

In 2000, his Indian passport expired and the Indian High Commission refused to issue him a new passport.  For the last 16 years, Bhai Amrik Singh has had no travel document and was unable to travel outside the UK to join friends and family for any marriage ceremonies, family holidays or deaths in the family, let alone partake in any political activities around the world.

In June 2013, Bhai Amrik Singh employ lawyers and once again applied for British nationality. If the Home Secretary refused his application, he was ready to apply for judicial review of her decision. He submitted a comprehensive dossier of evidence with his application, including copies of the British passports of his wife, children and grandchildren, and was granted citizenship on 3 October 2013.

But after the citizenship ceremony, the certificate was returned due to the Home Office having made a typographical error in relation to hisdate of birth. The ceremony coordinator told Bhai Amrik Singh to complete the ceremony and return the certificate to the Home Office, thereafter as it was a simple administrative matter on their part that should be rectified.

For over seven months Cameron Clarke Lawyers acting for Bhai Amrik Singh kept chasing the Nationality team at the Home Office. Eventually they responded in late May 2014 stating they had made a mistake and the granting of naturalisation that was issued was declared null and void by the Home Secretary. The Home Office said they would make a fresh consideration of the application and said a decision would be made within four weeks of 22 May 2014.

Many will be aware, Bhai Amrik Singh was extensively quoted in the mainstream media following the revelation of UK involvement in advising the Indian authorities on the Genocide at Sri Hamdandir Sahib in June 1984. Was it a coincidence that the granting of naturalisation was declared null and void following the Sikh Federation (UK) criticisms of the internal review, calling for an independent public inquiry?

A decision to refuse the application was eventually made on 21 July 2014, stating Bhai Amrik Singh was “not of good character” despite never breaking any laws. He appealed to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), and the directions hearing the SIAC judge was so perplexed by the U-turn that he suggested Bhai Amrik Singh apply for a judicial review in the High Court.  A judicial review application was made and accepted by the High Court.

In November 2014, the Home Office lawyers employed a delaying tactic by referring to the need to wait for the Hyaj, Bakijasi and Kaziu v Home Secretary case in the Court of Appeal, and applied for a stay of proceedings pending the outcome in that case. Following several delays, the Court of Appeal eventually ruled a year later in favour of the Home Secretary. Despite the ruling, it subsequently emerged this case was not at all relevant as the facts were very different. Ironically at around the same time the Indian authorities indicated it was willing to issue Bhai Amrik Singh an Indian passport. He declined.

In a separate legal challenge by the leadership of the Sikh Federation (UK), including Bhai Amrik Singh, the Home Secretary confirmed on 14th December 2015 that she would be recommending to Parliament that the ban on the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) should be removed (this was removed in March 2016). On 22 December 2015 the Home Secretary conceded that her original decision on 3 October 2013 to grant him citizenship was correct and her subsequent decisions in May 2014 and July 2014 were wrong.  The ordeal did not end there with a further delay of nine months before a passport was eventually issued earlier this month, following threats to take the matter back to the High Court.

Following the issue of the British passport, Cameron Clarke Lawyers acting for Bhai Amrik Singh said:

“All the tiresome hard work, dedication, diligence and perseverance of Amrik Singh and Tony Shergill of Cameron Clarke Lawyers has paid off and provided Amrik Singh with the freedom to travel overseas which so many British nationals take for granted. It is a great day for justice and the truth has prevailed.”

Rob Marris MP, the current Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs and an adviser to the Sikh Federation (UK) stated:

“The withdrawal of citizenship was shocking.  The UK Government was of course legally entitled to refuse his application on the basis of evidence.   The UK Government was not entitled to withdraw its acceptance of his application for a minor technical mistake (a mistake of the government’s making) to enable it to have a second bite of the cherry.  In the legal sense, that withdrawal was unequitable.  In the everyday sense it was just plain unfair.  I am pleased that this unfairness has been rectified – after all, fairness is a key part of being British!”

 

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

www.sikhfeduk.com |sikhfederationuk@yahoo.co.uk | facebook.com/Sikh

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