Shamima Begum loses bid to regain British citizenship

Shamima Begum. Pic: BBC

Shamima Begum has lost her challenge over the UK government’s decision to strip her of British citizenship despite the fact that a judge found there is credible evidence she was trafficked to Syria as a child.

The semi-secret Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) court found that the fact that she was probably trafficked does not limit the Secretary of State’s powers to limit her citizenship.

Mr Justice Jay found that then Home Secretary Sajid Javid was not required to consider “in formal terms” whether she was or might have been trafficked.

In February 2019 the Home Secretary deprived Shamima Begum of her British citizenship because he was satisfied that to do so was conducive to the public good. He stated that Ms Begum had travelled to Syria to align with ISIS and was a threat to national security.

Begum left for Syria when she was 15 and since then evidence has emerged that the she was groomed online and that the police knew of her intentions but did not stop her. She was also assisted by a Canadian intelligence agents to cross the Turkey/Syria border.

The ruling means the 23-year-old remains barred from returning to the UK and stuck in a camp in northern Syria.

The SIAC judgement said: “The Commission concluded that there was a credible suspicion that Ms Begum had been trafficked to Syria… Essentially, and from the perspective of those responsible for the trafficking, the motive for bringing her to Syria was sexual exploitation to which, as a child, she could not give a valid consent. The Commission also concluded that there were arguable breaches of duty on the part of various State bodies in permitting Ms Begum to leave the country as she did and eventually cross the border from Turkey into Syria..

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“In outline, given that Ms Begum is now in Syria, the State’s corollary investigative duty did not compel the Secretary of State to facilitate her return to the United Kingdom, nor did it prevent him from exercising his deprivation powers… In short, the Commission decided that a finding that Ms Begum has been trafficked does not operate as a form of limitation on the Secretary of State’s wide powers under section 40.”

SIAC added: “The Commission concluded that, whereas it was incumbent on the Secretary of State to consider all the circumstances surrounding Ms Begum’s departure from this country when she was a child, including whether and to what extent that she acted voluntarily, he was not required to consider in formal terms whether she was or might have been trafficked…

“Ultimately, however, the Commission has accepted the submission advanced on behalf of the Secretary of State that the conclusion that Ms Begum travelled voluntarily to Syria align with ISIL is an integral part of the overall national security assessment carried out by the Security Service.”

Sajid Javid. Editorial credit: LINGTREN.COM /

Her legal team said the case was “nowhere near over” and the decision will be challenged.

In a statement, Ms Begum’s lawyers Gareth Pierce and Daniel Furner called on Suella Braverman, the current Home Secretary, to look at the case again “in light of the commission’s troubling findings.”

CAGE Outreach Director Moazzam Begg said: “Bangladesh – the birthplace of her parents – won’t give her nationality either which means she is now stateless. Rendering a person stateless is not only a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – of which UK is an author and signatory- but also illegal under English law…

“Whatever your view of Shamima it is now established she was child-trafficked by Canadian intelligence agents right into the hands of IS. Since then she has witnessed the deaths of three of her children – one of them just after British vulture-journalists ‘discovered’ her.

“Now contrast far right teen Ben John ordered by the judge to ‘read books’ to avoid a prison sentence as punishment for researching bomb making and white supremacy, or teen Ryan McGee given two years for assembling pipe bombs and an arsenal of weapons to start a race war after watching far right Russian beheading videos or serving soldier Mikko Vehvilainen given eight yrs for neo-Nazi recruitment within the British Army. Rest assured this Brit of Finnish origin wasn’t stripped of his nationality. As were none of the growing numbers of members of far right organisations convicted of terrorism.

“In truth, several British women who lived under IS are now back in the UK. Some were jailed, some now freed, some not even charged. There’s a reason Shamima’s case is so prominent but it has little to do with justice and most intelligent people can see that.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said it was “pleased” with the outcome, adding: “The government’s priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so.”

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