Advertisement

What happens next to Shamima Begum after British citizenship appeal dismissed?

Begum has lost her challenge over the removal of her British citizenship at the Court of Appeal, but her lawyer insists they will fight on.

Watch: Shamima Begum loses appeal against removal of her British citizenship

Shamima Begum has lost a Court of Appeal challenge over the removal of her British citizenship.

Begum was 15 when she and two school friends travelled from Bethnal Green, east London, to territory in Syria controlled by the so-called Islamic State (Isis) group in 2015.

Her citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Last year, the now 24-year-old lost a challenge against this at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC). Begum’s lawyers brought a bid to overturn that decision at the Court of Appeal, with the Home Office opposing the challenge.

In a ruling on Friday, three judges dismissed Begum’s bid.

Giving the ruling, Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr said: “It could be argued the decision in Ms Begum’s case was harsh. It could also be argued that Ms Begum is the author of her own misfortune. But it is not for this court to agree or disagree with either point of view. The only task of the court was to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful. Since it was not, Ms Begum’s appeal is dismissed.”

What happens next for Begum?

The ruling may not signal the end of the road for Begum. Her solicitor, Daniel Furner, said following the decision that “we are not going to stop fighting until she does get justice and until she is safely back home”.

Some experts have said the issue around Begum's de facto "statelessness" - whereby someone does not have the nationality of any country - could lead to some grounds for a further appeal.

ROJ CAMP, NE SYRIA - NOVEMBER 17: British-born Shamima Begum from Bethnal Green in London, who joined Islamic State in Syria aged 15 in 2015, is photographed at Roj Camp, where she is currently interred with other women who were members of Islamic State, on November 17, 2021, in Roj camp, Syria. (Photo by Sam Tarling/Getty Images)
Shamima Begum pictured in Syria in 2021. (Getty Images)

A 2020 hearing ruled the decision to remove her British citizenship was lawful as Begum was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent” at the time of the decision. However, her barristers argued this made Begum “de facto stateless” given Bangladeshi authorities had stated they would not allow her into the country.

Alexander dos Santos, an extradition barrister, told Sky News following the Friday's decision: "Rather than the Court of Appeal saying she was not de facto stateless, the Court of Appeal has essentially said that wasn’t something the home secretary [Sajid Javid at the time] needed to determine. It wasn’t the legal test being applied.

"That potentially gives some scope to Shamima Begum’s lawyers to... push that issue and see if they can get back before the Supreme Court a second time on issues about whether or not that, in reality, meant the decision would have made her stateless and therefore in breach of international law.

AL HOL CAMP, NE SYRIA - FEBRIARY 22: British-born Shemima Begum, 19, from Bethnal Green in London, stands outside the tent in which she's currently living with her newborn son at a detainment camp for foreign ISIS women and their children, on February 22, 2019, in Al Hol, near Hassakeh in North Eastern Syria. Begum had recently escaped from Baghouz, the small village in north east Syria that was the final hold out of Islamic State. (Photo by Sam Tarling/Getty Images)
Begum pictured at a detainment camp for foreign Isis women and their children in February 2019 in Al Hol, near Hassakeh in north-eastern Syria. (Getty)

"So there is at least some potential for there to be an attempt to take things further, but as to whether or not that argument has really been thrashed out enough for the courts, or has enough of a legal foundation, for the Supreme Court to reconsider it is something for her lawyers now to decide having digested the decision."

The Home Office, welcoming the decision, said it would "robustly defend" it.

But Maya Foa, director of human rights charity Reprieve, countered that "citizenship stripping is not the answer.” She said: “If the government thinks that Shamima Begum has committed a crime, she should be prosecuted in a British court."

Following the ruling on Friday, Baroness Carr said any arguments over the consequences of the unanimous judgment, which could include a bid to appeal at the Supreme Court, will be adjourned for seven days.

Shamima Begum apologises to UK public in television interviews.  (BBC News)
Shamima Begum has previously apologised to the UK public in television interviews. (BBC News)

What happened to Shamima Begum's friends?

Begum travelled to Syria with Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana.

Abase stayed in contact with her family, reportedly sending her mother messages on social media a number of times before these stopped. Abase married 18-year-old Australian Abdullah Elmir soon after arriving in Raqqa. He was killed shortly afterwards. While Begum previously shared hopes her friend was alive, Abase's mother told the media she believes her daughter has been killed.

Sultana was also married shortly after reaching Raqqa, to an American Isis fighter. She made a number of phone calls to her family after leaving the UK and said she was living as a housewife, despite intelligence sources suggesting she was involved in making suicide vests. Sultana was reportedly killed in a Russian airstrike in 2016.

Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport in 2015. (PA)
Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport in 2015. (PA)

What happened to Shamima Begum's husband and children?

Begum married Isis fighter Yago Riedijk, a Dutch Muslim convert who was 21 when he met and wed the then-schoolgirl 10 days after she arrived in Raqqa.

Riedijk and Begum were separated as they fled Baghouz amid the fall of Isis, with Riedijk captured by Kurdish forces and jailed in Syria. He has been convicted in a Netherlands court over his membership of Isis and will also be jailed there if he is ever allowed to return.

The couple's first two children died from malnutrition and disease, and Begum later lost her third child who died in a refugee camp in 2019 amid her appeal to return home to the UK.

Read more