Government may have to reinstate Bethnal Green IS teen’s British citizenship
- Credit: MPS
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said he would not leave an individual “stateless” when questioned on the future of Islamic State bride Shamima Begum.
The 19-year-old from Bethnal Green, who fled to Syria aged 15, said she wanted to return to the UK with her newborn baby.
But the Home Secretary revoked her British citizenship in a move only permissible under international law if it does not leave the individual stateless.
It was speculated that Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, may have citizenship there but Bangladesh’s minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam denied this yesterday
Asked about the situation Mr Javid said: “I’m not aware of any Home Secretary in any party in any previous government that has taken a decision that would leave anyone stateless.
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“I’m not going to talk about an individual, but I can be clear on the point that I would not take a decision and I believe none of my predecessors ever have taken a decision that at the point the decision is taken would leave that individual stateless.”
A statement tweeted by Mr Alam said: “The government of Bangladesh is deeply concerned that she has been erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship shared with Bangladesh alongside her birthplace, the United Kingdom.
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“Bangladesh asserts that Ms Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen. She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh.
“It may also be mentioned that she never visited Bangladesh in the past despite her parental lineage.
“So, there is no question of her being allowed to enter into Bangladesh.”
The statement added that Dhaka had only been made aware of the situation by the media.
Asked whether she had been left stateless by Britain, the Begum family’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said: “It’s certainly something we will be adding to the mix in terms of our appeal.”
He has said Ms Begum was born in the UK, has never had a Bangladeshi passport and is not a dual citizen.
A Home Office spokesman said Mr Javid’s priority was the “safety and security” of the country.
Decisions to deprive people of citizenship were “based on all available evidence and not taken lightly,” the spokesman added.
Ms Begum was one of three schoolgirls to leave Bethnal Green to join the terror cult in 2015 and resurfaced heavily pregnant at a Syrian refugee camp last week.
When shown a copy of the Home Office letter that announced her British citizenship would be stripped, she said it was “a bit unjust on me and my son”.
She went on to say she may try for citizenship in the Netherlands, where her husband is from.
Mr Javid suggested the action to prevent Ms Begum returning will have no impact on her baby son’s nationality.
While insisting he could not discuss individual cases, he told the Commons: “Children should not suffer.
“So, if a parent does lose their British citizenship, it does not affect the rights of their child.”
Ms Begum’s situation has sparked intense debate about the UK’s responsibilities to those seeking to return from Syria.
The British Nationality Act 1981 provides the Home Secretary with the power to strip people of citizenship if it is “conducive to the public good”.
Lord Carlile, former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said Ms Begum could challenge the Home Secretary’s decision, and described it as a “complex issue” that could take a while to resolve.
Figures for 2017 show that 104 people were deprived of their British citizenship, up from 14 in the previous year.