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Citizenship update: Shamima Begum

By March 10, 2021July 14th, 2021Government, Human Rights, People

The Supreme Court has ruled that Shamima Begum, the young woman who left the UK for Syria to join Islamic State, may not return to her home country to fight against the removal of her British citizenship. 

Ms Begum, now 21, wants to come back to the UK to challenge the Home Secretary’s decision to remove her citizenship; she is currently in a camp controlled by armed guards in Syria. Having left the UK in 2015 at the age of fifteen, she travelled to Syria to join IS. In 2019, then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid removed her citizenship on the grounds of national security. 

However, last July, the Court of Appeal ruled that the only fair course of action in this case was to allow Ms Begum to return home to appeal the decision, as she is not able to do so from her camp in Syria. While other people who have had their citizenship stripped have been able to appeal from overseas, the camp she’s in won’t even let her lawyers visit, so it’s incredibly difficult for her to engage in any way with the process.

The Home Office immediately responded to this ruling with an appeal to the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision, claiming that allowing her to return to the UK would pose “significant national security risks”. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that her rights were not being breached with the refusal to allow her permission to return to the UK. 

Lord Reed, president of the Supreme Court, said that the government had been within their rights to prevent Ms Begum from returning and that the right to a fair hearing “did not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public”.

He did, however, add that the appropriate answer may be to pause her legal dispute for citizenship until she was in a safer position in which to take part in her appeal from abroad. 

Current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision and claimed it reaffirmed “the Home Secretary’s authority to make vital national security decisions”. 

Liberty, the Human Rights group representing Ms Begum’s case have argued that a right to fair trial is not something that governments should be able to take away “on a whim”, and that the decision sets an “extremely dangerous precedent”. 

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