Key questions after the ruling in the Shamima Begum case

Shamima Begum, who had her British citizenship revoked on national security grounds after she travelled to so-called Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria, has lost the latest stage of her legal battle with the Government.

Here the PA news agency looks at Wednesday’s ruling and what happens next.

– What was the challenge?

Ms Begum brought a legal bid against the Home Office over then-home secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to strip her of her British citizenship on national security grounds in February 2019.

The case was heard at a specialist tribunal, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), sitting in central London.

After a five-day hearing in November, on Wednesday Mr Justice Jay and two other tribunal members dismissed Ms Begum’s challenge.

Giving the decision, the judge said that “reasonable people will differ” over the circumstances of Ms Begum’s case.

– What was the decision?

In a 76-page public judgment, Mr Justice Jay and the two other members dismissed Ms Begum’s challenge on all grounds.

Wednesday’s ruling was only about her citizenship, and whether the decision to remove it would need to be reconsidered by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, not whether she could return to the UK.

“British citizenship is not an absolute entitlement for everyone,” Mr Justice Jay said. “It can be removed by the Secretary of State, but not if to do so would render the subject stateless.

“Many citizens of the United Kingdom are immune from deprivation action for that reason, but not Ms Begum.”

Shamima Begum
Ms Begum was shown the letter from the Home Office stripping her of her British citizenship by ITV News (ITV News)

Mr Justice Jay said that the tribunal had found it to be “a case of great concern and difficulty”.

The judge also noted that Ms Begum had been ‘married off’ to an IS fighter when in Syria, and that her three babies had died.

“Whatever the extent of her ideological commitment before she left in February 2015, Ms Begum could not have had any inkling of how much personal suffering she was destined to endure,” Mr Justice Jay said.

The judge also found it was “arguable” that bodies including the Metropolitan Police, Ms Begum’s school and the local authority had failed to take “reasonable preventative measures” in the months before Ms Begum left for Syria.

“The state may have failed in its duties to Ms Begum before she travelled to Syria, but she is now well beyond the scope of its protection,” he added.

– What about trafficking?

Announcing the decision, 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 that there was a “credible suspicion” that Ms Begum was “recruited, transferred and then harboured for the purpose of sexual exploitation”.

However, they 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.

Mr Justice Jay said: “The commission has fully recognised the considerable force in the submissions advanced on behalf of Ms Begum that the Secretary of State’s conclusion, on expert advice, that Ms Begum travelled voluntarily to Syria is as stark as it is unsympathetic.

“Further, there is some merit in the argument that those advising the Secretary of State see this as a black and white issue, when many would say that there are shades of grey.”

The judge found it was up to the people advising the Home Secretary, not the tribunal, to assess whether Ms Begum’s travel was voluntary, adding that “many right-thinking people will strongly take issue with the assessment of those advising the Secretary of State”.

Shamima Begum Supreme Court hearing
Ms Begum was prevented from returning to the UK to bring her appeal by the Supreme Court (Yui Mok/PA)

– What happened before?

Wednesday marks the second major judgment in Ms Begum’s case at SIAC.

In a preliminary ruling in February 2020, SIAC ruled the decision to deprive Ms Begum of her British citizenship was lawful as Ms Begum was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent” at the time of the decision.

The tribunal also found that she could not “play any meaningful part in her appeal and that, to that extent, the appeal will not be fair and effective”.

Ms Begum took her case to the Court of Appeal over whether she could return to the UK for the main challenge.

After the Court of Appeal ruled that she could return to the UK in July 2020, the Home Office challenged this decision at the Supreme Court.

In February 2021, the UK’s highest court said that Ms Begum should not be granted leave to enter the UK to pursue her appeal against the deprivation of her British citizenship.

In Wednesday’s judgment, Mr Justice Jay said the Supreme Court’s ruling had “complex ramifications”.

– What happens next?

Following Wednesday’s ruling, Ms Begum’s lawyers said that they plan to appeal the decision.

Speaking outside Field House in central London after the judgment was handed down, one of Ms Begum’s solicitors, Daniel Furner, said: “In terms of the legal fight, that’s nowhere near over, we’re not going into details about exactly what that means at this stage.

“What else this judgment calls out for though is some courage and some leadership from the Home Secretary to look at this case afresh in light of the clear and compelling factual findings this court has made.”

Appeals to rulings made at SIAC are typically heard at the Court of Appeal, rather than the High Court.

Gareth Peirce, another of Ms Begum’s lawyers, called the decision “an extraordinary judgment delivered in an extraordinary way”.

– What has the Government said?

The Home Office said they are “pleased” the court has ruled against Shamima Begum.

Sunday Morning
Former home secretary Sajid Javid welcomed Wednesday’s ruling (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

In a statement, a spokeswoman said: “We are pleased that the court has found in favour of the Government’s position in this case.

“The Government’s priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so.”

Mr Javid also expressed his support for the decision.

He said: “I welcome today’s court ruling, which has again upheld my decision to remove an individual’s citizenship on national security grounds.

“This is a complex case but home secretaries should have the power to prevent anyone entering our country who is assessed to pose a threat to it.”