OPINION - Shamima Begum loses bid to regain British citizenship

 (Ben Turner)
(Ben Turner)

There can be few more dramatic examples of the state’s power over its citizens than to strip one of their very nationality. That was the decision taken by then-home secretary Sajid Javid in February 2019 regarding Shamima Begum after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp.

Ms Begum has been locked in a legal battle with the government ever since. And this morning she suffered a significant blow in her battle to return to Britain, as a court rejected claims that she was unlawfully stripped of her British citizenship. For some helpful background, here’s a timeline of events since 2015.

As our home affairs editor Martin Bentham reports, judges at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission did not accept that the home office had acted unlawfully in removing Ms Begum’s nationality because she was a victim of trafficking when she travelled to Syria with two other east London school girls to join the so-called Islamic State (IS) in 2015. You can read here what happened to Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, with whom she travelled to Syria.

The court also rejected claims by Ms Begum that the decision to strip her of her citizenship was pre-determined, in breach of equality duties and family rights, and taken without proper consideration of the risk she would pose on her return to Britain.

The presiding judge, Mr Justice Jay, did point out that the “real merits” of the case pertained to trafficking for sexual exploitation. However, he said that although there was a “credible suspicion” that Ms begum was a victim of trafficking, Javid had not been required to consider this as a factor to be assessed when he made the decision to remove her citizenship on national security grounds.

In essence, this harks back to the 2019 Supreme Court decision, the courts having concluded that the home secretary does indeed have the legal powers to assess the national security risk in these circumstances.

Thoughts now turn to broader questions and in particular how to balance the tension between Britain’s international responsibilities and the government’s desire to protect its citizens from persons deemed to be a national security risk.

Our leader column today argues that, while it is understandable that a country might not welcome Ms Begum with open arms, she was a child when she left and she ought to face justice in this country, as a British citizen. Instead, for now at least, we have made her Syria’s problem.

Elsewhere in the paper, is it Brexit, freak weather or rising energy costs? The latest on food shortages in the UK, what exactly is missing from the shelves and why.

In the comment pages, Ayesha Hazarika says that SNP leadership hopeful Kate Forbes took only 24 hours to trash her party’s reputation – at least Liz Truss needed 49 days. While Chris Cotonou celebrates the return of male earrings, no longer just for punks or Hackney art school students.

And finally, from my family to yours, may I take this opportunity to wish you a happy International Margarita Day. Clare Finney lists some of the best bars in London for one – though you can take her recommendations with a pinch of salt.

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