ARTICLE AD BOX
The supreme court will announce next week whether Shamima Begum, who left London as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State in 2015, should be allowed back into the UK to challenge the removal of her British citizenship.
Begum was 15 when she fled to Syria to live under Isis rule for more than three years.
Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019. She had already lost two children and the third died shortly after being born.
Begum, now 21, is challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and wants to be allowed to return to the UK to pursue her appeal.
The court of appeal ruled in July last year that “the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal”.
The Home Office challenged that decision at the supreme court in November, arguing that allowing her to return to the UK “would create significant national security risks” and expose the public to “an increased risk of terrorism”.
The UK’s highest court will rule next Friday on whether Begum should be granted leave to enter the UK to pursue her appeal. It will also rule on whether her appeal should be allowed if she is refused leave to enter the UK.
At the hearing in November, Begum’s lawyers said she was in al-Roj camp in northern Syria, where conditions were dire.
Lord Pannick QC told the court that the Syrian Democratic Forces, which control al-Roj camp, “do not permit visits from lawyers nor do they permit detainees to speak to lawyers”.
He said the case against Begum was “no more than that she travelled to Syria and ‘aligned with’” Isis, and that “it is not alleged that she fought, trained or participated in any terrorist activities, nor that she had any role” within Isis.
He said that if Begum was unable return to the UK “the deprivation appeal must be allowed” because there was “no other fair or just step that can be taken”.
Extracts of MI5 assessments of the dangers posed by the return of those who joined Isis were read out at the hearing.
Sir James Eadie QC, for the Home Office, told the court the assessments gauged that Begum presented a serious threat “justifying the removal of her British citizenship and … the placing of serious impediments in the way of her return to the UK”.
“She is assessed to pose a real and current threat to national security. She is aligned with Isis,” he said. “During the four years she has spent in Islamic State territory she had undergone radicalisation and ‘desensitisation to violence’.”
The court was also told that Home Office officials declared “public sentiment is overwhelmingly hostile” toward Begum and argued that removing her British citizenship would not affect community relations.
Begum, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, boarded a flight from Gatwick to Istanbul, Turkey, on 17 February 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.
The three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy left London shortly after Sharmeena Begum, who is no relation, travelled to Syria in December 2014.
Begum says she married the Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in Isis territory. All three of her school friends also reportedly marryied foreign Isis fighters.
She told the Times in February 2019 that she had left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband, but her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died.