WAS TORY Home Secretary Sajid Javid within his rights to take away Shamima Begum’s UK citizenship? The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) says “yes” – leaving civil rights campaigners concerned that the judicial system is upholding a political decision.
Let’s be honest: one of the most basic human rights is not to be killed or injured in an indiscriminate attack from a group trying to further its cause by random attacks. The organisation that Shamima Begum supported was lawless and murderous and its actions cannot be defended. The western imperialists, whom ISIS wanted to overthrow, do have blood on their hands – but killing their citizens is not justifiable, and nor will it succeed in bringing about their downfall.
It seems that Shamima Begum and two friends – all three resident in Tower Hamlets – journeyed to Syria to support the cause of ISIS. The Home Secretary has ruled that Ms Begum – the only one of the three still alive – cannot return to the UK, and he has revoked her UK citizenship to enforce this.
Is the UK state really concerned that a confused 20 year old women poses a serious danger to its very existence? When she was first found, in the Roj refugee camp in Syria, Ms Begum claimed that she still supported ISIS: a wise thing to say, given her location and desire to stay alive – particularly while her third child was still alive. She later changed her story.
The Home Secretary could have said that Ms Begum, then just 15 years old, went to Syria because she had been groomed. Tower Hamlets Council safeguarding procedures failed to keep her safe. He could have said that the UK was a forgiving and tolerant nation which did not censor diverse political views but sought to keep its citizens safe. Instead, he ruled that Ms Begum had been so much in the wrong that she would be kept out of the UK: a decision which was little more than a punishment for a wrong life decision Ms Begum took when she was 15.
Under international agreements, countries are not allowed to remove a person’s citizenship if they are not a citizen of any other state, and the removal of the citizenship would leave them “stateless”. The Home Secretary stated, correctly, that Ms Begum was of Bangladeshi heritage. He then justified his decision by claiming that Ms Begum was a Bangladesh citizen, later changing this to claiming that she could obtain Bangladeshi citizenship.
Ms Begum appealed against the removal of her UK citizenship on the grounds that the removal would leave her stateless. SIAC, which deals with appeals from those whom the Government deems are a threat to national security, has turned down her appeal. It agrees with the Government that Ms Begum could obtain Bangladeshi citizenship.
The Bangladeshi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already stated publicly that the country will not grant any application for citizenship which Ms Begum might make, and nor will they allow her to enter Bangladesh. It seems SIAC chose not to believe them. Ms Begum’s lawyers will appeal against the SIAC decision, asking that the appeal be dealt with quickly, as Ms Begum’s circumstances are precarious.
Perhaps Home Secretary Sajid Javid believes that removing Ms Begum’s citizenship will be a lesson to others considering supporting ISIS, and that it is necessary as a deterrent to others. It is more likely that he doesn’t give a toss about Ms Begum, and that his decision was taken to appease racist voters who want firm action taken against brown people. Let’s see if the UK judicial system can find an objective way forward.
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