Shamima Begum: East London schoolgirl loses appeal against removal of UK citizenship

Shamima Begum
Shamima Begum was 15 and living in Bethnal Green, London, when she left the UK in 2015

Shamima Begum has lost an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship.

The east London schoolgirl, now 24, travelled to Syria in 2015 at the age of 15, before her citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found in a refugee camp in 2019.

After a series of legal battles, Ms Begum lost a challenge at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in February last year – but took her case to the Court of Appeal in October.

This morning Dame Sue Carr, one of the appeal judges who ruled on the case, said that they agreed with the commission’s decision on Ms Begum’s citizenship and dismissed her appeal.

The judge said: “Ms Begum may well have been influenced and manipulated by others but still have made a calculated decision to travel to Syria and align with ISIL [Islamic State].”

She added: “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.

“The only task of the court was to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful. Since it was not, Ms Begum’s appeal is dismissed.”

Ms Begum, who remains in a refugee camp in northern Syria, was represented at her appeal by Samantha Knights KC, who argued the government had failed to consider legal duties owed to a potential victim of trafficking.

But the Home Office, represented by Sir James Eadie KC, said the “key feature” of Ms Begum’s case is national security.

Ms Begum’s legal team is likely to appeal the latest ruling, with arguments over the consequences of today’s judgment adjourned for seven days.

Her solicitor Daniel Furner said “we are not going to stop fighting until she does get justice and until she is safely back home”.

One of her lawyers, Gareth Peirce, told Sky News home editor Jason Farrell ahead of the hearing: “As long as she is still there, this doesn’t end.”

What are the arguments for and against her return?

Announcing the SIAC decision last February, Mr Justice Jay said “the real merits of Ms Begum’s case” involved her arguments that she had been the victim of trafficking.

The tribunal found there was a “credible suspicion” Ms Begum was “recruited, transferred and then harboured for the purpose of sexual exploitation”.

Ms Knights and Dan Squires KC argued at the Court of Appeal that the UK has failed to have a “full and effective” investigation into how Ms Begum was trafficked.

2021: Shamima Begum speaks to Sky News


However, the SIAC had also found that Mr Javid was not required to formally consider whether Ms Begum was, or might have been, trafficked when deciding to strip her British citizenship.

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

“Ms Begum contends that national security should not be a ‘trump’ card.

“But the public should not be exposed to risks to national security because events and circumstances have conspired to give rise to that risk.”

In the 42-page Court of Appeal judgment, the judges said they were “not persuaded that there was any obligation on the secretary of state to take into account the possibility that there might be a duty to investigate the circumstances of Ms Begum’s trafficking.”

They found SIAC was entitled to find “that the issue of whether and to what extent Ms Begum’s travel to Syria had been voluntary was within the expertise of the intelligence agencies advising the Secretary of State”.

Source:  Sky News

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