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Fri, 14 August 2020

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Number 10 ‘bitterly disappointed’ as court rules schoolgirl who joined ISIS Shamima Begum can return to UK

Number 10 ‘bitterly disappointed’ as court rules schoolgirl who joined ISIS Shamima Begum can return to UK

Shamima Begum left the UK to join the Islamic State in 2015 as a teenager (PA)

3 min read

Number 10 said it is "bitterly disappointed" by the court ruling which allows Shamima Begum, who left to join ISIS as a teenager, to return to the UK.

Downing Street confirmed the Home Office will appeal the decision after judges ruled she cannot effectively contest the decision to strip her British citizenship without being allowed to come and attend future hearings in person.

The 20-year-old, who is currently in Syria, was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy in east London who joined Islamic State in 2015.

Ms Begum travelled to Raqqa where she was immediately married to Dutch convert Yago Riedij, and had two children with IS fighter, both of whom died.

She was found in a refugee camp in February last year, nine months pregnant with a third child, who has also since died.

The then-home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds later that month.

But she took legal action claiming the decision rendered her stateless and exposed her to a real risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.

The case went to the the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in February, which ruled it was lawful as Ms Begum was "a citizen of Bangladesh by descent" at the time of the decision.

However the tribunal also found she "cannot play any meaningful part in her appeal and that, to that extent, the appeal will not be fair and effective", leading her to take her case to the Court of Appeal.

On Thursday it ruled "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”.

Lord Justice Flaux, sitting with Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh, said in their decision: "Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns, so that the leave to enter appeals should be allowed."

And criticising the tribunal’s earlier ruling the judge said: "With due respect to SIAC, it is unthinkable that, having concluded that Ms Begum could not take any meaningful part in her appeal so that it could not be fair and effective, she should have to continue with her appeal nonetheless."

He added: "It is difficult to conceive of any case where a court or tribunal has said we cannot hold a fair trial, but we are going to go on anyway."

In response to the decision the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Government's priority is maintaining our national security, and decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are not taken lightly.

"We will always ensure the safety and security of the UK and will not allow anything to jeopardise this."

And Mr Javid tweeted he was "deeply concerned" by the judgment, saying: ”Any restrictions of rights and freedoms faced by Ms Begum are a direct consequence of the actions she has taken, in violation of both government guidance and common morality.

"It is not clear to me why an appeal could not be made abroad using modern technology. However, this is not solely a matter of justice. It is also a matter of national security."

The former Cabinet minister said if she did come back to the UK it would prove impossible to subsequently remove her, and warned allowing her to walk the streets would serve "as a lightning rod for both Islamist and far-right extremists”.

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