The Memo: Appeal for Shamima Begum’s British citizenship rejected

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Appeal for Shamima Begum’s British citizenship rejected: what now?

Chelsey Stanborough – 27 February 2023

Shamima Begum’s citizenship has been a topic of debate in the UK since the then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid stripped her of her British Citizenship in 2019. Back in 2015, 15-year-old Shamima Begum travelled to Syria with two school friends to join the Islamic State Group, and eventually had three children (all of whom died) with her husband, who was a fighter for the group. Since the decision to refuse her entry to the UK, Ms Begum remains in an IS supporter camp as her legal team continue to fight on her behalf.

Begum’s legal team appealed the decision by the previous Home Secretary back in November 2022, despite the Special Immigration Appeals commission ruling the decision as lawful three year earlier. Her team have since pushed that given her age, Begum should be considered a victim of child trafficking, as she was not old enough to be able to give consent, a factor they argue Javid did not consider. In the ruling this week, the judge presiding over the appeal explained that even if Begum had been a victim of trafficking, this element of the case did not trump concerns over national security.

So, what part do concerns over national security play in the case? According to the British Nationality Act 1982, home secretaries have the legal power to remove British citizenship if the individual poses threat the public good, which was amended in 2014 to further penalise those who have ‘conducted themselves in a manner seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK’. In this case, the affiliation with the infamous terrorist group is sufficient grounds to deem Ms Begum as a risk to the British public.

Yet others have argued that the UK is falling behind EU nations in its treatment of cases like this. Jonathan Hall KC - an independent reviewer of the Terrorist Act - claims countries like France and Germany have accepted back around 100 citizens each into their country (with Sweden following closely behind), and the rate of repartitions is on the rise. But for now, the UK remain firm on Sajid Javid’s decision.

Further reading: Human rights & immigration practice area guide