Fri 26 February 2021:
Shamima Begum, who fled Britain as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State in Syria, has failed to restore her British citizenship after the supreme court ruled she had lost her case.
Dubbed a “Daesh bride” for having left the UK to marry a member of the terror group, Begum lost the first stage of her court appeal on Feb. 7 against the Home Office’s decision to strip her of British citizenship, which was revoked on national security grounds after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp in 2019.
Lord Reed, the president of the court, said its judges had decided unanimously to rule in favour of the home secretary and against Begum on all counts before it. That means the 21-year-old will not be able to re-enter the UK to fight her case in person and will not be able to have her citizenship restored while she is being detained in Syria.
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Fifteen years old at the time of her departure from London, Begum is of Bangladeshi origin. Before the decision, she held a UK citizenship but not of Bangladesh.
The government argued that as Begum is of Bangladeshi origin, she is thus eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship by descent under that country’s law and thus cannot be considered stateless.
Begum was 15 when she fled east London with two other school friends to join Isis in Syria six years ago. Although born and raised in the UK, Begum’s British citizenship was removed in 2019 by the then home secretary, Sajid Javid, shortly after she had been found by a journalist in a prison camp.
She lived in Daesh-controlled areas for three years, marrying a Dutch foreign fighter. She had lost two children and a third one shortly after birth.
Begum, who is now 21 years old, challenged the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and wanted to be allowed to return to the UK to pursue that appeal.
Initially, the Court of Appeal said she should be allowed to return to fight the case.
However, Friday’s judgement by the Supreme Court came after an appeal by the Home Office.
Priti Patel, the current home secretary, said ministerial authority had been affirmed by the court. “The government will always take the strongest possible action to protect our national security and our priority remains maintaining the safety and security of our citizens,” she added.
Intelligence agencies estimate that 900 Britons travelled to Syria or Iraq to join Isis. Of these about 20% were killed and 40% returned home. The remainder are either missing or held in Kurdish camps, their UK citizenship often having been removed.