Shamima Begum loses appeal against removal of British citizenship | Shamima Begum

Lawyers for Shamima Begum have vowed to “keep fighting” to bring her home after they failed in a fresh attempt to overturn a decision to remove her British citizenship after the court of appeal ruled against her.

Three judges unanimously concluded that the then home secretary, Sajid Javid, had the power to set aside concerns she may have been a victim of child trafficking when she left east London as a schoolgirl and travelled in secret with two friends to live under Islamic State (IS) in 2015.

The court also held that Javid had acted lawfully even if it meant Begum, now 24, was effectively stateless – because she theoretically held Bangladeshi citizenship, which applied up to her 21st birthday, at the time of his decision in 2019.

An argument raised by her lawyers, that citizenship deprivation disproportionately affected British Muslims, and so was a breach of equalities law, was also dismissed because there is an exemption for cases involving national security.

Dame Sue Carr, the head of the court of appeal, said the judges unanimously dismissed Begum’s appeal: “It could be argued that the decision in Miss Begum’s case was harsh.

Shamima Begum loses appeal against removal of British citizenship – video

“It could also be argued that Miss 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.”

Begum’s solicitor, Daniel Furner, said they would seek to fight on, hinting at a possible appeal to the supreme court. Furner said he had promised Begum and the government that they were “not going to stop fighting until she does get justice and until she is safely back home”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the court of appeal has found in favour of our position in this case. Our priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so.”

Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, an NGO that represents the two dozen British women detained in north-east Syria, said: “This whole episode shames ministers who would rather bully a child victim of trafficking than acknowledge the UK’s responsibilities.”

Begum is being held in indefinite detention in the Roj refugee camp in north-east Syria, which is controlled by Kurdish forces who captured her early in 2019 at the end of the ground war against IS in Syria and Iraq.

Shortly after, Javid revoked her British citizenship on the grounds it was “conducive to the public good”, after she had given an interview to the Times in which she said she did not regret living four years in the so-called caliphate and had told the BBC the Manchester Arena terror attack was “a kind of retaliation”.

But, two years later, in September 2021, Begum said she had made a mistake and would “rather die than go back to IS” in a TV interview. Insisting she was not a terrorist, she said she was prepared to come back to the UK and be put on trial to prove her innocence. “The government do not have anything on me,” she said.

A protracted legal battle has ensued, in which Begum’s case has already been blocked once by the supreme court. It was established in earlier proceedings that although she had never been to Bangladesh, she was eligible for its citizenship up until the age of 21, because it was the origin country of her parents.

Last year, Begum lost a challenge against the decision at the special immigration appeals commission(Siac). Begum’s lawyers brought a bid to overturn this decision at the court of appeal, with the Home Office opposing the challenge.

Begum’s legal team put forward five grounds to overturn Siac’s decision. But the court of appeal judges – Carr, Lord Justice Bean and Lady Justice Whipple – ruled against her in each instance, an emphatic judgment that gives Begum limited hope in any further appeal.

The judges concluded that “there was no material shortcoming” on the part of Javid “arising out of any failure to take account of the possibility that Ms Begum had been trafficked for the specific purpose of sexual exploitation”.

The then home secretary was aware of “the likelihood that she was a child victim of others who wished to exploit her for sexual or extremist reasons”. But they held he was entitled to conclude that fears she posed a risk to national security were more significant because it was “a question of evaluation and judgment” allowed to him in law.

MI5, the domestic spy agency, advised Javid that she was a threat to the UK because Begum had aligned with IS by staying in Syria for four years. In addition, the intelligence agency concluded at the time, “public sentiment is overwhelmingly hostile” to her.

Javid also acted lawfully “despite knowing that she had nowhere else to go” because she retained a theoretical Bangladeshi citizenship. Her lawyer’s argument that Begum was rendered “de facto stateless” because she was not able to go to Bangladesh was irrelevant, because it was trumped by the national security concern.

It would not be possible to do the same today, the judges added, because of her age. “It is important to note that the same decision could no longer be made, because [of] the loss of Ms Begum’s Bangladeshi citizenship when she reached her 21st birthday,” they wrote.

Begum’s lawyers, the judges said, also unsuccessfully argued that citizenship deprivation was “disproportionately applied to British Muslims of certain ethnic minorities” and “impacts detrimentally upon the relations between members of Muslim communities and others”.

National security exemptions to the public sector equality duty allowed Javid to act as he did, the judges concluded.

Next steps, which will include whether Begum wishes to apply for permission to appeal to the UK supreme court, will be discussed at a hearing in a week’s time.


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