Shamima Begum should be allowed to return to UK to pursue appeal, court rules

Shamima Begum – one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) – should be allowed to return to the UK to challenge the deprivation of her British citizenship, senior judges have ruled.

Ms Begum, now 20, travelled to Syria in February 2015 and lived under IS rule for more than three years before she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.

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

Ms Begum took legal action against the Home Office, claiming the decision was unlawful because it rendered her stateless and exposed her to a real risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.

In February, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) – a specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone's British citizenship on national security grounds – ruled the decision was lawful as Ms Begum was "a citizen of Bangladesh by descent" at the time of the decision.

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BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout still taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of east London schoolgirl Shamima Begum, going through security at Gatwick airport, before catching a flight to Turkey in 2015 to join the Islamic State group, she is now heavily pregnant and wants to come home.
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout file still taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of (left to right) 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum before catching a flight to Turkey in 2015 to join the Islamic State group, Shamima Begum is now heavily pregnant and wants to come home.
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police of east London schoolgirl Shamima Begum, who left Britain as a 15-year-old to join the Islamic State group and is now heavily pregnant and wants to come home.
Sahima Begum (sister of Shamima Begum) and Abase Hussen (father of Amira Abase ) leave the Houses of Parliament in London, after giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee after three schoolgirls are feared to have joined Islamic State in war-torn Syria.
Handout comp of stills taken from CCTV issued by the Metropolitan Police of (left to right) Kadiza Sultana,16, Shamima Begum,15 and 15-year-old Amira Abase going through security at Gatwick airport, before they caught their flight to Turkey on Tuesday. The three schoolgirls believed to have fled to Syria to join Islamic State.
The famiiles of Amira Abase and Shamima Begum after being interviewed by the media at New Scotland Yard, central London, as the relatives of three missing schoolgirls believed to have fled to Syria to join Islamic State have pleaded for them to return home.
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 10 : In this photo taken from video, Shamima Begum's sister Sahima Begum attends an evidence session at Parliaments Home Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons, on three girls who are believed to have travelled to Syria to join Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) in London, England on March 10, 2015. (Photo by House of Commons/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 10 : In this photo taken from video, (L-R) Kadiza Sultana's Cousin Fahmida Aziz, Shamima Begum's sister Sahima Begum, Amira Abase's father Hussen Abase and Lawyer Tasnime Akunjee representing the families of the three schoolgirls missing in Syria attend an evidence session at Parliaments Home Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons, on three girls who are believed to have travelled to Syria to join Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) in London, England on March 10, 2015. (Photo by House of Commons/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The tribunal also found that she "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 to effectively pursue her appeal was also rejected.

On Thursday, the Court of Appeal ruled that "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: "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."

The judge found that "the national security concerns about her could be addressed and managed if she returns to the United Kingdom".

In its ruling, the court said: "If the Security Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions consider that the evidence and public interest tests for a prosecution for terrorist offences are met, she could be arrested and charged upon her arrival in the United Kingdom and remanded in custody pending trial."

Lord Justice Flaux also 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."

Ms Begum 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 school friends 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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