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Shamima Begum loses appeal against British citizenship removal

Although court found there was 'credible suspicion' that she was trafficked for sexual exploitation as a child, it was not enough for her to win her appeal

SHAMIMA BEGUM has lost her legal challenge over the decision to remove her British citizenship in a ruling described as “very disappointing” by rights groups. 

Mr Justice Jay told the court today that although there was a “credible suspicion” that the 23-year-old had been trafficked to Syria as a child, this was not enough for her to win her appeal. 

The decision means Ms Begum will remain barred from returning to Britain and stuck in a prison camp in north-eastern Syria. 

Her lawyers have said the fight is “nowhere near from over” and will challenge the ruling. 

Ms Begum left her home in east London in 2015 with two school friends to join the so-called Islamic State group in Syria. 

She went on to marry an Isis fighter and had three children, all of whom died. 

Ms Begum’s British citizenship was stripped in 2019 by then home secretary Sajid Javid on national security grounds. 

That decision was later upheld by the Supreme Court after Ms Begum’s lawyers lodged an appeal with the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

Today’s ruling follows a second legal challenge by her lawyers.

During the five-day hearing in November, Ms Begum’s lawyers argued that the then home secretary had failed to consider whether she was a child victim of trafficking when making the decision to deprive her of her citizenship. 

They alleged that she had been groomed by the terror group along with her friends at the age of 15 to join Isis. 

In its judgement, the commission concludes that there was credible suspicion that Ms Begum was trafficked to Syria for the purposes of sexual exploitation as a child. 

It also concluded that there were “arguable breaches of duty” by state bodies in allowing her to travel to the country. 

However Mr Justice Jay ruled that even if Ms Begum was trafficked, this did not override Mr Javid’s legal power to make a national security decision to strip her of her citizenship.

Describing the case as being of “great concern and difficulty,” the judge ruled: “Some might argue that a child who has been radicalised or brainwashed has become more intractable and refractory than an adult.

“But the real point here is that, in the light of Begum, this is exactly the sort of issue that lies within the judgement of the Secretary of State and not the commission.”

However the judge added that the commission was concerned by the security services’ “apparent downplaying of the significance of radicalisation and grooming, in stating that what happened to Ms Begum is not unusual.”

While the government has welcomed the ruling, rights groups repeated criticism of the use of “racist” citizenship-stripping powers.

Ms Begum’s lawyers Gareth Peirce and Daniel Furner have called on Home Secretary Suella Braverman to look at the case again. 

“Regrettably this is a lost opportunity to put into reverse a profound mistake and a continuing injustice. Ms Begum remains in unlawful, arbitrary and indefinite detention without trial in a Syrian camp. Every possible avenue to challenge this decision will be urgently pursued.”

They warned that the decision removes protections for British child trafficking victims in national security cases.

Reprieve director Maya Foa said: “Despite today’s decision the government’s racist citizenship-stripping policy remains unsustainable and badly out of step with security partners like the US.

“Britain is the only G20 country that strips citizenship in bulk and the last of our allies refusing to repatriate its nationals from north-east Syria.”

Amnesty International’s refugee and migrant rights director Steve Valdez-Symonds said: “This is a very disappointing decision.

“The power to banish a citizen like this simply shouldn’t exist in the modern world, not least when we’re talking about a person who was seriously exploited as a child.”

He added: “Just as other nations have done, the UK should be helping any of its citizens stranded in Syria — including by assisting in their safe return to the UK, whether or not that means facing possible criminal investigation or prosecution.”

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