Shamima Begum to challenge decision not to allow her into UK to pursue appeal

Shamima Begum travelled to Syria to join so-called Islamic State.
Shamima Begum travelled to Syria to join so-called Islamic State Credit: PA

Shamima Begum is set to appeal against a ruling that she cannot return to the UK to challenge the removal of her British citizenship.

Ms Begum was one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join so-called Islamic State (IS) in February 2015 and lived under IS rule for more than three years.

She was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year, prompting then home secretary Sajid Javid to revoke her British citizenship later that month.

Last year, Ms Begum took legal action against the Home Office at the High Court and the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), a specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone’s British citizenship on national security grounds.

In February 2019, SIAC ruled the decision to revoke Ms Begum’s British citizenship did not render her stateless and was therefore lawful, as she was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent” at the time of the decision.

A decision to revoke someone’s British citizenship is lawful only if an individual is entitled to citizenship of another country.

SIAC also found Ms Begum “cannot play any meaningful part in her appeal and that, to that extent, the appeal will not be fair and effective”, but ruled that “it does not follow that her appeal succeeds”.

Ms Begum’s challenge to the Home Office’s decision to refuse to allow her to enter the UK in order to effectively pursue her appeal was also rejected.

She is due to appeal against that ruling at the Court of Appeal on Thursday.

The two-day hearing before Lord Justice Flaux, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh will be livestreamed on the judiciary’s YouTube channel.

At the hearing in October 2019, Ms Begum’s barrister Tom Hickman QC argued the decision to revoke her citizenship “had the effect – and was designed – to prevent” Ms Begum from returning to the UK, leaving her “abandoned” in a detention camp.

The tribunal accepted that “in her current circumstances” Ms Begum could not have a “fair and effective” appeal.

But it ruled: “We cannot accept, without investigation, the assumption, apparently made by the appellant’s representatives, that if she cannot have a fair and effective appeal her appeal must succeed.”

L to R, then 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, then 16, and Shamima Begum, then 15, at Gatwick Airport in February 2015. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Ms Begum’s lawyers had also claimed that the “wretched and squalid” conditions in al-Roj – and in the al-Hawl camp from which Ms Begum was moved for her own safety – breached her human rights.

SIAC found that “conditions in the al-Roj camp would breach the appellant’s rights under Article 3” of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment.

But it said the decision did not breach the Home Office’s policy on the extraterritorial application of human rights.

Ms Begum, then aged 15, was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy who left their homes and families to join IS, shortly after Sharmeena Begum – who is no relation – travelled to Syria in December 2014.

Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, and Ms Begum boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on February 17 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.

Ms Begum claims she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in IS territory, with all three of her schoolfriends also reportedly marrying foreign IS fighters.

She told the Times last February that she 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.

Her third child died shortly after he was born.

The hearing is due to begin at 10.30am on Thursday and it is expected that the Court of Appeal will reserve its judgment to a later date.