Shamima Begum loses appeal against citizenship deprivation

Shamima Begum. Pic: BBC

Shamima Begum has lost a Court of Appeal decision to regain her UK citizenship which means the 24-year-old must remain in northern Syria after the government stripped her citizenship on national security grounds in 2019.

Ms 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.

Begum has admitted knowingly joining a proscribed organisation. She said that she was “ashamed” to have done so and regretted it.

But despite this, the ruling by three appeal judges was unanimous although it could still be challenged in the Supreme Court.

In the ruling on Friday, Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr said: “It could be argued the decision in Ms Begum’s case was harsh. It could also be argued that Ms Begum is the author of her own misfortune. But it is not for this court to agree or disagree with either point of view.

“Our only task is to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful. We have concluded it was not, and the appeal is dismissed.”

Ms Begum’s lawyers took the case to appeal after losing a previous hearing last year. They argued that the Home Office’s decision to remove her citizenship was unlawful, in part because British officials failed to properly consider whether she was a potential victim of trafficking.

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Her solicitor, Daniel Furner, said that her legal team were “not going to stop fighting until she does get justice and until she is safely back home.”

On the other hand, Sir James Eadie KC, for the Home Office, said the “key feature” in the case was national security.

“The fact that someone is radicalised, and may have been manipulated, is not inconsistent with the assessment that they pose a national security risk,” he said.

The Home Office said it was “pleased” at Friday’s ruling, adding that its “priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so.”

Meanwhile, Anas Mustapha, head of Public Advocacy at CAGE International, said the court had failed to keep government excesses in check.

“Following today’s failed appeal, the courts have consistently failed to provide any sort of checks and balances on the government’s abuse of the citizenship deprivation policy. Across the board and especially in the case of Shamima Begum, most fair observers would appreciate how this is an egregious power that is inherently racist.

“The courts are shown to be at best inept at providing a check on the excesses of the executive, and at worst complicit in the abuse of power against citizens.”

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