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Government will appeal Shamima Begum return ruling

THE COURT OF APPEAL has today ruled that Shamima Begum should be permitted to return to the UK to contest the UK Government’s decision to revoke her British citizenship.

The Government has responded to today’s Court of Appeal decision by saying that the ruling is “very disappointing” and that it intends to apply for leave to appeal.  It is not yet clear whether Ms Begum will be able to return to the UK pending the decision on a further appeal, or whether the Government will find a way to prevent her return until the case has been to the Supreme Court.

Shamima Begum grew up in Bethnal Green and, together with two school friends, ran off to Syria to support ISIS.  They left at a time when the UK authorities were supposed to be on the look-out for young people trying to make their way out east to support ISIS – but no one at the airport thought to stop and question three 15 year old schoolgirls who were trying to fly out to Turkey.

The two school friends were later killed.  Ms Begum married an ISIS fighter and gave birth to three children while she was still in her teens – all of whom died. She was found by a journalist in a refugee camp, having fled the desperate conditions in Syria. She gave birth to her third child in that camp, and he died a few days later.

During her first interview, Ms Begum seemed to indicate that she still supported ISIS.  Given that she was being interviewed in a refugee camp, this may be seen as a wise thing to say – but the UK authorities seemed to take no account of her circumstances, her mental state or her youth. Pandering to overt and underlying racism in UK society, the Home Secretary revoked her British citizenship on the grounds that he didn’t want someone with terrorist sympathy returning to the UK.  He wanted to send a message to other teenagers who might be thinking of going to help ISIS that they would not find it easy to return to the UK – in the hope that this thought might deter them from going after all. Words like “pull the other one” greeted his actions across the East End.

No state is allowed to remove citizenship from one of their citizens if doing so would make that person stateless, and that is a crucial point of law in this case.  The UK Government argued that because Shamima Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage, she could apply to be for Bangladeshi citizenship, so she is not stateless.  The counter arguments are that she would be stateless unless and until she was granted Bangladeshi citizenship – and Bangladesh has said that she has no grounds for being granted Bangladeshi citizenship anyway.

The Appeal Court verdict stressed that the facts of Shamima Begum’s case needed to be heard if the case was to be resolved in a fair and just way.  While it is true that Goliath should have taken a bit more notice of David, it is not clear that the entire British state is in mortal danger from one teenager who is older, and possibly wiser, than she used to be and whom it failed to protect five years ago. For the avoidance of doubt, we do stress that terrorist attacks and violence are abhorent and we should all work together to stop them. Now we wait to see whether justice, and a fair hearing, will prevail in the case of Shamima Begum.

●Read more about this story:
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