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Shamima Begum loses bid to regain UK citizenship – BBC News

  • By Andre Rhoden-Paul & Dominic Casciani, legal correspondent
  • BBC News

Image caption,

Ms Begum was 15 when she joined Islamic State group in 2015

Shamima Begum has lost a Court of Appeal decision to regain her UK citizenship.

The ruling means the 24-year-old must remain in Syria. The government stripped her citizenship on national security grounds in 2019.

Ms Begum left London nine years ago aged 15 to travel to Syria and join Islamic State group, or IS.

The ruling by three appeal judges was unanimous. It could still be challenged in the Supreme Court by Ms Begum.

Her solicitor, Daniel Furner said that her legal team were “not going to stop fighting until she does get justice and until she is safely back home”.

In the ruling on Friday, 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.

“Our only task is to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful. We have concluded it was not, and the appeal is dismissed.”

In a highly significant decision, the judges wholly dismissed all of her arguments used in the appeal.

Ms Begum’s lawyers took the case to appeal after losing a previous hearing last year. They argued that the Home Office’s decision to remove her citizenship was unlawful, in part because British officials failed to properly consider whether she was a potential victim of trafficking.

Sir James Eadie KC, for the Home Office, said the “key feature” in the case was national security.

“The fact that someone is radicalised, and may have been manipulated, is not inconsistent with the assessment that they pose a national security risk,” he said.

The ruling represents a substantial victory for the government and averts a potential legal crisis: were its decision to be reversed, home secretaries would in future need to balance national security considerations with questions of whether someone is a victim.

The Home Office said it was “pleased” at Friday’s ruling, adding that its “priority remains maintaining the safety and security of the UK and we will robustly defend any decision made in doing so”.

Image source, Metropolitan Police

Image caption,

Begum (right) as she left London for Syria with two friends

Ms Begum, born in the UK to parents of Bangladeshi heritage, was one of three east London girls who travelled to Syria in 2015 to support the IS group.

Begum lived under IS rule for more than three years. She married a Dutch member of IS, who is currently held in a Kurdish detention centre, and lived in Raqqa, once a stronghold of the group. She had three children, all of whom have died.

She was found in al-Roj camp in northern Syria in 2019 following the defeat of IS.

Begum has admitted knowingly joining a proscribed organisation. She said that she was “ashamed” to have done so and regretted it.

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