Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the Home Office decision to strip Shamima Begum of her British citizenship, saying she should be allowed to return to the UK to face questioning.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid made the move after the teenager, who fled London aged 15 to join Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria, said she wanted to return to the UK with her newborn son.
The Labour leader has now criticised Mr Javid’s action as ‘very extreme’ after diplomatic tensions broke out with Bangladesh denying the 19-year-old had citizenship in the nation she has apparently never visited.
Mr Corbyn told ITV News: ‘She obviously has, in my view, a right to return to Britain.
‘On that return she must obviously face a lot of questions about everything she has done and at that point any action may or may not be taken.
‘But I think the idea of stripping somebody of their citizenship when they were born in Britain is a very extreme manoeuvre indeed.
‘Indeed, I questioned the right of the Home Secretary to have these powers when the original law was brought in by Theresa May when she was home secretary.’
Mr Sajid made an order to strip the 19-year-old from London, who fled to Syria aged 15, of her of UK citizenship this week.
Mr Javid’s decision is only permissible under international law if Ms Begum is a citizen of another country.
It has been claimed that Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, may have citizenship there but Bangladesh’s minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam denied this on Wednesday.
Asked about the situation on ITV’s Peston, Mr Javid said: ‘I’m not aware of any Home Secretary in any party in any previous government that has taken a decision that would leave anyone stateless.
Home Secretary @sajidjavid says he would never make a decision that would make any individual ‘stateless’
— Peston (@itvpeston) February 20, 2019
“I’m not going to talk about an individual, but I can be clear on the point that I would not take a decision and I believe none of my predecessors ever have taken a decision that at the point the decision is taken would leave that individual stateless.”
The Bangladeshi minister of state for foreign affairs said yesterday: “The Government of Bangladesh is deeply concerned that she has been erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship shared with Bangladesh alongside her birthplace, the United Kingdom.
“Bangladesh asserts that Ms Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen. She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh.
“It may also be mentioned that she never visited Bangladesh in the past despite her parental lineage.
“So, there is no question of her being allowed to enter into Bangladesh.”
The statement added that Bangladeshi authorities had only been made aware of the situation by the media.
Asked whether she had been left stateless by Britain, the Begum family’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said: “It’s certainly something we will be adding to the mix in terms of our appeal.”
He has said Begum was born in the UK, has never had a Bangladeshi passport and is not a dual citizen.
Human Rights Barrister Philippe Sands said that it is ‘crystal clear’ that removing Ms Begum’s citizenship would make her stateless.
He said: “Making a person stateless has huge consequences and we should not be playing around with people’s futures, however difficult, unfortunate and even horrible are some of the things this young woman has said in recent days.
“It’s very hard not to conclude that at the date the decision was taken, this individual had a single nationality. It’s a humungous mess and frankly it is completely incompetent.”
A Home Office spokesman said Mr Javid’s priority was the ‘safety and security’ of the country.
Decisions to deprive people of citizenship were ‘based on all available evidence and not taken lightly,’ the spokesman added.
Begum was one of three schoolgirls to leave Bethnal Green to join the terror cult in 2015 and resurfaced heavily pregnant at a Syrian refugee camp last week.
When shown a copy of the Home Office letter that announced her British citizenship would be stripped, she said it was ‘a bit unjust on me and my son’.
She went on to say she may try for citizenship in the Netherlands, where her husband is from.