Sajid Javid accused of Tory leadership pitch as he strips Isis teen Shamima Begum of UK citizenship

Posted On: 
20th February 2019

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has stripped Islamic State schoolgirl Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship - prompting claims he has put his "leadership ambitions" above international law.

Sajod Javid is tipped as a future Conservative leader.
Credit: 
PA Images

The Cabinet minister - tipped by many as a possible successor to Theresa May in Number 10 - ordered the move against the 19-year-old, who fled Bethnal Green for Syria in 2015 to join the terror group.

A letter from the Home Office to Ms Begum's mother, first obtained by ITV News, said: "Please find enclosed papers that relate to a decision taken by the Home Secretary, to deprive your daughter, Shamima Begum, of her British citizenship.

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"In light of the circumstances of your daughter, the notice of the Home Secretary's decision has been served of file today (19th February), and the order removing her British citizenship has subsequently been made."

The move effectively bans Ms Begum from re-entering the UK, where she has asked to return following the birth of her newborn baby.

Under international law, governments cannot make a person stateless if they are a citizens of a single country.

However, Ms Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage and it is understood that the Home Office believes she had dual nationality - a claim disputed by her family's lawyers.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "In order to protect this country, he [Mr Javid] has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship where it would not render them stateless.

"We do not comment on individual cases, but any decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly."

Tasnime Akunjee, Ms Begum's family lawyer, said the teen's parents were "very disappointed with the Home Office's intention to have an order made depriving Shamima of her citizenship".

The SNP's Home Affairs spokesperson Joanna Cherry said the move by the Home Secretary lacked "mercy" and was "more about his leadership ambitions than security issues or due process".

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott took also took aim at decision, saying the possibility of Ms Begum having dual citizenship was "entirely irrelevant".

The Labour frontbencher said: "If the government is proposing to make Shamima Begum stateless it is not just a breach of international human rights law but is a failure to meet our security obligations to the international community.

"Potential citizenship rights elsewhere are entirely irrelevant.

"Our fundamental freedoms do not need to be compromised; they are perfectly compatible with our safety."

Her Liberal Democrat counterpart Sir Ed Davey meanwhile said: "Membership of a terrorist group is a serious crime, as is encouraging or supporting terrorism. But Shamima Begum should face justice for those crimes in the UK.

 "It is not only hard to see Ms Begum and her baby as constituting a serious threat to national security, but it also seems a huge wasted opportunity. We can learn lessons as to why a young girl went to Syria in the first place; lessons which could improve Britain’s security by helping us prevent this happening again."

And the move also drew criticism Conservative MP George Freeman, who warned it could set a "dangerous precedent".

But the Home Office's decision was welcomed by Tory MP Philip Hollobone, who told the Telegraph: “Well done, Sajid Javid for acting so quickly. This is exactly the right thing to do.