Supreme Court to hear whether Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to UK

By Sam Tobin, PA
·4-min read

Shamima Begum’s potential return to the UK to challenge the deprivation of her British citizenship will be considered by the Supreme Court.

Ms Begum, now 21, was one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in February 2015.

She lived under IS rule for more than three years before she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.

Then-home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds later that month.

Shamima Begum court appeal
CCTV of the three schoolgirls leaving the UK (Met Police/PA)

In July, the Court of Appeal ruled that “the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal”.

Lord Justice Flaux – sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh – said: “Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns, so that the leave to enter appeals should be allowed.”

Later that month, the Court of Appeal gave permission for both the Home Office and Ms Begum to take their case to the UK’s highest court, and ordered a “stay” on Ms Begum’s return “until further order by the Supreme Court”.

At a remote two-day hearing starting on Monday, the Supreme Court will consider whether Ms Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to appeal against the deprivation of her British citizenship.

Five Supreme Court justices, led by the court’s president Lord Reed, will also consider whether Ms Begum’s appeal should be allowed if she is refused leave to enter the UK.

Shamima Begum court appeal
Handout file comp of stills taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of (left to right) Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport, before they caught their flight to Turkey in February 2015 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Also on Monday, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) will hear the cases of three individuals with British-Bangladeshi heritage whose British citizenship has been revoked on the grounds of national security.

SIAC – a specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone’s British citizenship on national security grounds – will hear appeals by two women, known only as C3 and C4, who also allegedly travelled to Syria from the UK to join IS.

At the same time, the tribunal will hear an appeal brought by a man referred to only as C7, whose British citizenship was revoked earlier this year after he too allegedly travelled to Syria to join to IS.

All three claim the decision to remove their British citizenship rendered them stateless and was therefore unlawful, which is denied by the Home Office.

In Ms Begum’s case, SIAC originally ruled that she “cannot play any meaningful part in her appeal and that, to that extent, the appeal will not be fair and effective”, but said “it does not follow that her appeal succeeds”.

However, earlier this year, the Court of Appeal said: “It is difficult to conceive of any case where a court or tribunal has said we cannot hold a fair trial, but we are going to go on anyway.”

Ms Begum was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy who left their homes and families to join IS, shortly after Sharmeena Begum, who is no relation, travelled to Syria in December 2014.

Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, and Ms Begum boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on February 17 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.

Ms Begum claims she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory, with all three of her school friends also reportedly marrying foreign IS fighters.

She told The Times last February that she left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband but her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died.

Her third child died shortly after he was born.

The Supreme Court hearing starts at 11am on Monday and is being livestreamed on the court’s website.