Shamima Begum loses British citizenship appeal as ISIS bride cannot return to UK
Shamima Begum has lost her legal challenge over the decision to deprive her of her British citizenship.
Begum was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) in February 2015.
Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds by then-home secretary Sajid Javid shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.
Begum has been locked in a legal battle with the Government ever since, recently challenging the Home Office at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) over the decision.
During a five-day hearing in November, Begum’s lawyers said that the Home Office had a duty to investigate whether she was a victim of trafficking before stripping her of her British citizenship.
Giving the decision of the tribunal, Mr Justice Jay said that “reasonable people will differ” over the circumstances of Shamima Begum’s case.
He said: “The commission has fully recognised the considerable force in the submissions advanced on behalf of Ms Begum that the Secretary of State’s conclusion, on expert advice, that Ms Begum travelled voluntarily to Syria is as stark as it is unsympathetic.
“Further, there is some merit in the argument that those advising the Secretary of State see this as a black and white issue, when many would say that there are shades of grey.”
He continued: “If asked to evaluate all the circumstances of Ms Begum’s case, reasonable people with knowledge of all the relevant evidence will differ, in particular in relation to the issue of the extent to which her travel to Syria was voluntary and the weight to be given to that factor in the context of all others.
“Likewise, reasonable people will differ as to the threat she posed in February 2019 to the national security of the United Kingdom, and as to how that threat should be balanced against all countervailing considerations.
“However, under our constitutional settlement these sensitive issues are for the Secretary of State to evaluate and not for the commission.”
The specialist tribunal heard said that she was “recruited, transported, transferred, harboured and received in Syria for the purposes of ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘marriage’ to an adult male”.
At a previous hearing in February 2020, SIAC ruled that the decision to remove her British citizenship was lawful as Begum was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent” at the time of the decision.
However, her barristers said in November that the decision made Begum “de facto stateless”, where she had no practical right to citizenship in Bangladesh, with Bangladeshi authorities stating they would not allow her into the country.
Barristers for the Home Office defended the Government’s decision, arguing that people trafficked to Syria and brainwashed can still be threats to national security, adding that Ms Begum expressed no remorse when she initially emerged from IS-controlled territory.
Sir James Eadie KC, for the department, said there was “no ‘credible suspicion’ that she was a victim of trafficking or was at real and immediate risk of being trafficked prior to her travel from the UK”
Sir James said that the then-home secretary Javid took into account Begum’s age, how she travelled to Syria – including likely online radicalisation – and her activity in Syria when making the decision to remove her British citizenship.
He added that the Security Services “continue to assess that Begum poses a risk to national security”.
The Home Office have said they are “pleased” the court has ruled against Begum.
In a statement, a spokeswoman said: “We are pleased that the court has found in favour of the Government’s position in this case.
“The Government’s priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so.”