With nations perpetually locked in conflict throughout history, dual citizenship was a concept long considered unacceptable. This was down to military obligations—why would a country risk depleting its military force, whilst simultaneously strengthening other nations’ armies? As former US Attorney General Jeremiah Sullivan Black summed up in 1859: “No government would allow one of its subjects to divide his allegiance between it and another sovereign; for they all know that no man can serve two masters.”
Yet, with the professionalisation of many military services and an increase in migration, the benefits of dual citizenship are increasingly recognised around the world. That said, dual citizenship is still a contentious issue. Some believe it can hinder cultural assimilation and prevent national cohesiveness, amongst other criticisms. Plenty of countries have therefore resisted allowing dual citizenship, among them India, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. The contempt many nations have for dual citizenship has the potential to cause real controversy, and has on occasions brought nationalistic and xenophobic attitudes to the fore. Read on to find out about some of the most astonishing dual citizenship controversies we’ve seen in recent times.
Australia’s Parliament depleted by 117-year-old dual citizenship law
Politicians find themselves embroiled in job-ending scandals all the time. Collusion, infidelity, expenses abuse and racism are some of the more common reasons politicians lose their positions. However, sometimes, a political storm can be caused by something a lot more innocuous than this. Remarkably, in possibly one of the most controversial and long-running political sagas in Australian history, 15 politicians (at the time of writing) have been forced to resign in the past year due to holding dual citizenships. This is in a country where dual citizenship is actually recognised and celebrated.
The Australian Parliament has found itself in disarray after a wave of resignations, all stemming from Section 44 of the 117-year-old constitution which prohibits dual citizens from running for parliament. The scandal is threatening to engulf the Australian Parliament and its politicians, and the clause has been labelled ‘anachronic’ and ‘irretrievably broken’. For many, it seems nonsensical considering that Australia is known as an immigrant nation, with a 2016 census showing that 26.3% of Australians were born abroad.
Section 44 was included in Australia’s constitution to protect the country’s interests after they gained Federation in 1901. Although multicultural Australia is hugely different nowadays, Paul Kildea, senior law lecturer at the University of New South Wales, told the BBC that the thinking behind the clause is still pertinent. “If the Australian parliament is presented with a bill which affects another nation, the clause is designed to ensure that MPs will be putting Australia’s interests first.” That hasn’t stopped calls for a referendum to repeal the clause, which thus far have been dismissed.Swiss footballers add fuel to the fire of tense Serbia and Kosovo relations
Swiss footballers Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka managed to stir up long-standing political tensions with their goal celebrations in a World Cup game against Serbia. After each of their respective goals, Shaqiri and Xhaka locked their hands together at the thumbs and ‘flapped’ their fingers in a gesture resembling the two-headed eagle on Albania’s national flag. Both players are dual Swiss and Albanian citizens of Kosovar-Albanian heritage, and were seemingly protesting against Serbia’s long-standing failure to recognise Kosovo’s independence. There were calls for the Swiss stars to be banned by FIFA, but they were ultimately ‘only’ handed hefty fines.
The controversy has led to the Swiss FA considering prohibiting dual citizens from playing for Switzerland in the future. The secretary-general of the Swiss FA, Alex Miescher, was quoted saying: “That incident shows that there’s a problem. We have to ask ourselves: do we want dual nationals?” He suggested that the association could only support young players who renounce a second passport.
Indonesian energy minister removed over dual citizenship
In 2016, Indonesia’s president ousted Arcandra Tahar from his position as energy and mining minister less than three weeks into his role, after it emerged he held both Indonesian and US citizenship. Unlike Australia, once dual citizens in Indonesia reach the age of 18, they must choose one citizenship.
Tahar has faced scathing criticism from various quarters, with Indonesian ultra-nationalists labelling him a traitor and journalists suggesting the affair was engineered by the CIA to embarrass Indonesia. These condemnations have been met with their own criticisms, with Today Online writer Johannes Nugroho contending that, “The Arcandra Tahar affair has…unleashed the nation’s latent xenophobia.”
There have been calls to relax the rules on dual citizenship in Indonesia for years. Members of the Indonesian diaspora have been particularly vocal in their demand for this, saying it would help them secure employment and process difficult documentation when abroad. It appears the government have taken note of these pleas, with Indonesian foreign Minister Retno Marsudi announcing in March that the government were considering allowing dual nationality for Indonesians abroad.
From causing ending political careers to stirring decade-long political tensions, dual citizenship has the potential to cause considerable controversy. However, this must be balanced against the multitude of benefits it can provide, and the inescapable fact that many feel an affinity to more than just one country.