United Kingdom

Major setback for ISIS bride Shamima Begum's fighting to return to Britain as citizenship hope hit

Islamic State bride Shamima Begum's hopes of having her British citizenship restored have been dealt a severe blow by the High Court.

Judges have decided that two terrorists – who like Begum are from British-Bangladeshi families – should not have their UK passports restored. 

The decision paves the way for Home Secretary Priti Patel to lawfully stop the jihadi bride from re-entering the UK on national security grounds.

However, the ruling could still be overturned on appeal.  

Citizenship fight: Shamima Begum's hope of having her British citizenship restored have been dashed

Begum was born and raised in Britain to parents from Bangladesh. In 2015, aged 15, she left her home in East London with two teenage friends to live in the Islamic State (IS) 'caliphate'.

In February this year, Begum was found in a Kurdish refugee camp in northern Syria by a newspaper reporter who said she planned to return to the UK.

The then Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, stripped Begum of her citizenship as she was deemed a threat to national security. While it would be illegal to leave a person stateless, the Government made the decision on the basis that Begum is eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents.

Appeal: Begum could challenge Home Secretary Priti Patel stops her bid from returning to Britain

Escaping to Syria: Kadiza Sultana,16, Shamima Begum,15 and 15-year-old Amira Abase before they joined IS in Syria 

At a three-day hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) last month, Begum's lawyers argued that, as the Bangladeshi government has refused to accept her right to citizenship, she has been left stateless.

Her lawyers also relied on an earlier ruling by SIAC on two men of Bangladeshi origin, who were also stripped of their British citizenship on national security grounds.

The two men were identified in court documents only as E3 and N3. In 2017, the Home Office stripped E3, aged 38, of his citizenship on suspicion that he was an Islamic extremist who had travelled abroad for terrorist activity.   

Jihadi bride: Shamima Begum revealed in February she was looking to return to Britain 

At the time his citizenship was deprived he was visiting Bangladesh, where he remains.

N3 is a 35-year-old man who was born in Bangladesh to British parents and later moved to the UK.

His British citizenship was taken away as the Home Office suspected he had gone to Syria and joined jihadi groups aligned with Al Qaeda. N3 is now in Turkey.

Both men took their cases to the SIAC in a joint hearing, and successfully defeated the Home Office. But now the High Court has found in favour of the Government and overruled the SIAC. The judges said that despite contradictory statements issued by the Bangladeshi government in the media, an official statement by its ministry stated that British-born and British-naturalised Bangladeshis do have a right to citizenship of the South Asian state.

The judges also ruled that SIAC made an error of judgment, and said the burden of proof lies with the two alleged extremists to prove they have been made stateless.

Judges have ordered SIAC to re-examine the cases of E3 and N3, but they will be able to rule in their favour only if lawyers for the two men present new evidence. The Home Office declined to comment.

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