Begum loses first stage of legal challenge to stripping of British citizenship

Shamima Begum – one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join so-called Islamic State – has lost the first stage of a legal challenge against the decision to revoke her British citizenship.

Ms Begum, now 20, left the UK 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.

Former home secretary Sajid Javid stripped her of her British citizenship later that month, a decision Ms Begum's lawyers argued was unlawful as it rendered her stateless. Such a decision is lawful only if an individual is entitled to citizenship of another country.

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.

Missing schoolgirls
From left to right, 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum, 15, at Gatwick Airport in February 2015 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The tribunal, led by SIAC president Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing, ruled on Friday that the decision to revoke Ms Begum's British citizenship did not render her stateless.

Judge Doron Blum, announcing the decision of the tribunal, said that the move did not breach the Home Office's "extraterritorial human rights policy by exposing Ms Begum to a real risk of death or inhuman or degrading treatment".

He added that, while Ms Begum "cannot have an effective appeal in her current circumstances", it "does not follow that her appeal succeeds" on that ground.

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.

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