Judgment has been handed down in Shamima Begum’s high profile challenge to the Home Secretary’s withdrawal of her British Citizenship. The Court of Appeal decided that the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come to the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal, which outweighs the national security concerns.
As is reported, she left the UK as a schoolgirl aged 15 to join Islamic State in Syria, where she married a Dutch fighter and gave birth to three children, none of whom survived. She was found in a Syrian refugee camp by journalists. She challenged the decision to withdraw her British Citizenship on various grounds, including that it left her stateless. SIAC found in favour of the Home Secretary on the preliminary issues including that she would not be left stateless, given her residual Bangladeshi nationality. In the course of its findings, SIAC concluded that Ms Begum could not have a fair and effective appeal against the Home Secretary’s decision, given her position in detention in a camp in northern Syria run by the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), but held that this did not require her appeal to be allowed, nor that she should be given leave to return to the UK.
The Court of Appeal held that the current lack of access to a fair appeal process did not require her appeal against the withdrawal of citizenship to be allowed, but it did require her to be given leave to enter the UK. The issue of the risk from withdrawal of British citizenship of being transferred to another country, in particular Iraq or Bangladesh, where she might face mistreatment was remitted to SIAC for reconsideration.
Angus McCullough QC was appointed as Special Advocate for Shahmima Begum for the closed stages of the proceedings before SIAC. There was no closed hearing before the Court of Appeal.
Judgment is available here and reported in the media, including the below: