Shamima Begum should not be allowed to return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.
Begum, now 21, challenged the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and wanted to be allowed to return to the UK to pursue her appeal.
The Court of Appeal ruled in July ‘the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the UK to pursue her appeal’.
The Home Office challenged that decision at the Supreme Court in November, arguing allowing her to return to the UK ‘would create significant national security risks’ and expose the public to ‘an increased risk of terrorism’.
Today, the UK’s highest court ruled Begum should not be granted leave to enter the UK to pursue her appeal against the deprivation of her British citizenship.
Announcing the decision, Lord Reed said: ‘The Supreme Court unanimously allows all of the Home Secretary’s appeals and dismisses Ms Begum’s cross-appeal.’
Begum (pictured in 2019) was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in February 2015
Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019
Today, the UK’s highest court (pictured, Lord Reed) ruled Begum should not be granted leave to enter the UK to pursue her appeal against the deprivation of her British citizenship
He said: ‘The right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public.
‘If a vital public interest makes it impossible for a case to be fairly heard then the courts cannot ordinarily hear it.
‘The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation hearing to be stayed – or postponed – until Ms Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised.
‘That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.’
At the hearing in November, her lawyers said Begum was currently in the al-Roj camp in northern Syria, where conditions are ‘dire’.
Lord Pannick QC told the court the Syrian Democratic Forces, which control the al-Roj camp, ‘do not permit visits from lawyers nor do they permit detainees to speak to lawyers’.
Begum (seen right) was one of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy to travel to Syria
Begum and two girls flew to Istanbul from Gatwick then helped by ISIS traffickers through Turkey to Syria
Begum is being held at the al-Roj refugee camp in northern Syria, where she is faced with ‘dire conditions’, according to her legal team
What became of her school friends?
The British schoolgirl who travelled to Syria to join Islamic State with two teenage friends is feared to have been killed in an air strike.
The mother of Amira Abase told friends she understands her daughter died almost a year ago. As well as being told by informed sources her daughter is believed to have been killed, Fetia Hussen lost the mobile phone app communication she had with Amira last summer.
Friends of Fetia Hussen say she believes her daughter, who married Abdullah Elmir, an 18-year-old Australian jihadi, has died, but clings to the faint hope that she is wrong. Both Fetia Hussen and Amira’s father, Abase Hussen, declined to comment. Some have claimed she may have faked her death to escape Syria.
Kadiza Sultana, 17, is thought to have died in 2016 after her home in the terror state’s stronghold city of Raqqa was hit by a bomb believed to have been dropped by a Russian plane.
The teenager had quickly become disillusioned with Isis and told her family last summer that she wanted to return home. ITV News revealed Kadiza is dead. Her sister Halima Khanom said: ‘We were expecting this, in a way. But at least we know she is in a better place.’
He said the case against Begum was ‘no more than that she travelled to Syria and ‘aligned with IS”, and ‘it is not alleged that she fought, trained or participated in any terrorist activities, nor that she had any role within IS’.
Lord Pannick added if Begum could not return to the UK to pursue an effective appeal ‘the deprivation appeal must be allowed’, as there is ‘no other fair or just step that can be taken’.
Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Home Office, told the court: ‘If you force the Secretary of State to facilitate a return to the UK, or if you allow the substantive appeal, the effect is to create potentially very serious national security concerns.’
He said of Begum: ‘She married an IS fighter, lived in Raqqa, the capital of the self-declared caliphate, and remained with them for about four years until 2019, when she left from, in effect, the last pocket of IS territory in Baghuz.’
Sir James argued that individuals who went to Syria to join IS pose a ‘real and serious’ risk to national security ‘whatever sympathy might be generated by the age of the person when they travelled’.
Begum, and Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, boarded a flight from Gatwick Airport to Istanbul, Turkey, on February 17 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.
The three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy left London shortly after Sharmeena Begum, who is no relation, travelled to Syria in December 2014.
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 in February 2019 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 in the al-Roj camp in March 2019, shortly after he was born.
Timeline: How Shamima Begum’s dream of becoming a jihadi bride saw her stripped of her British citizenship for joining ISIS
Escaping to Syria: Kadiza Sultana,16, Shamima Begum, then 15, and 15-year-old Amira Abase before they joined IS in Syria. Begum’s friends are believed to be dead
Here is a timeline of events following the three girls’ disappearance leading up to Shamima Begum’s legal action.
– February 17 – Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum leave their east London homes at 8am to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, from Gatwick Airport. Begum and Abase are reported missing by their families later the same day.
– February 18 – Sultana is reported missing to the police.
– February 20 – The Metropolitan Police launch a public appeal for information on the missing girls who are feared to have gone on to Syria. The Met expresses concerns that the missing girls may have fled to join ISIS.
– February 21 – Four days after the girls went missing, police believe they may still be in Turkey.
– February 22 – Abase’s father Abase Hussen says his daughter told him she was going to a wedding on the day she disappeared.
– March 10 – It emerges that the girls funded their trip by stealing jewellery.
– August 2016 – Sultana, then 17, is reported to have been killed in Raqqa in May when a suspected Russian air strike obliterates her house.
– February 13 – Begum, then 19, tells Anthony Loyd of The Times that she wants to return to the UK to give birth to her third child.
Speaking from the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria, Begum tells the paper: ‘I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago. And I don’t regret coming here.’
– February 15 – Home Secretary Sajid Javid says he ‘will not hesitate’ to prevent the return of Britons who travelled to join IS.
– February 17 – Begum gives birth to her third child – a baby boy, Jarrah – in al-Hawl. Her two other children, a daughter called Sarayah and a son called Jerah, have both previously died.
– February 19 – The Home Office sends Begum’s family a letter stating that it intended to revoke her British citizenship.
– February 20 – Begum, having been shown a copy of the Home Office’s letter by ITV News, describes the decision as ‘unjust’.
– February 22 – Begum’s family write to Mr Javid asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain. Shamima’s sister Renu Begum, writing on behalf of the family, said the baby boy was a ‘true innocent’ who should not ‘lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country’.
– Late February – Begum is moved to the al-Roj camp in north-eastern Syria, reportedly because of threats to her life made at al-Hawl following the publication of her newspaper interviews.
– March 7 – Jarrah dies around three weeks after he was born.
– March 19 – Begum’s lawyers file a legal action challenging the decision to revoke her citizenship.
– April 1 – In a further interview with The Times, Begum says she was ‘brainwashed’ and that she wanted to ‘go back to the UK for a second chance to start my life over again’.
– May 4 – Bangladesh’s foreign minister Abdul Momen says Begum could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism if she goes to the country, adding that Bangladesh had ‘nothing to do’ with her.
– September 29 – Home Secretary Priti Patel says there is ‘no way’ she will let Begum return to the UK, adding: ‘We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country – and that includes this woman.’
– October 22-25 – Begum’s appeal against the revocation of her British citizenship begins in London. Her barrister Tom Hickman QC submits the decision has unlawfully rendered her stateless, and exposed her to a ‘real risk’ of torture or death.
– February 7 – SIAC rules on Begum’s legal challenge
– July 16 – Court of Appeal rules on the case and finds in Begum’s favour
– November 23 – Supreme Court hears case
– February 26 – Supreme Court denies her right to enter UK