The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled that Shamima Begum, who left the U.K. for Syria along with two other schoolgirls to join the Islamic State (IS) group as a teenager, will not be allowed to return and fight her citizenship case. She is currently living in a camp in northern Syria, controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Begum was born and brought up in the U.K., and was a British citizen at birth. When she was 15 years old, she travelled to Syria with two friends. Shortly after she arrived, she married an IS fighter. Begum has remained in Syria since 2015 and has aligned with IS.
Now 21, she had her citizenship removed by the U.K. government on security grounds in early 2019, after she was discovered living in a refugee camp in northern Syria by Anthony Lloyd, a war correspondent for The Times. When Lloyd found her, Begum was heavily pregnant.
She argued that she had been left stateless, but in February 2020 a tribunal said that because she held dual British-Bangladeshi nationality, the move to strip her of her British citizenship was lawful. Then, in July, the Court of Appeal ruled that the only fair way forward was to allow her into the U.K. because she could not effectively appeal against the decision from the camp in northern Syria. Subsequently, the Home Office appealed to the Supreme Court who ruled on February 26 that the government had been entitled to prevent Begum from returning to the U.K.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court said : “The Court of Appeal mistakenly believed that, when an individual’s right to have a fair hearing of an appeal came into conflict with the requirements of national security, her right to a fair hearing must prevail. But the right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as the safety of the public.”
In addition, “the Court of Appeal made its own assessment of the requirements of national security, and preferred it to that of the Secretary of State, despite the absence of any relevant evidence before it, or any relevant findings of fact.”