The Supreme Court has ruled that Shamima Begum is not required by the Home Secretary to be allowed to return to the UK to challenge the decision to remove her British Citizenship. This reverses the Court of Appeal’s decision, which had been appealed by the Home Secretary.
As widely 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, as her result of 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 and her challenge to the refusal of her application for leave to return to the UK to pursue the appeal was also dismissed by SIAC.
The Court of Appeal allowed her appeal, finding that the lack of access to a fair appeal process from her current location in a camp in northern Syria did not lead to her appeal against the withdrawal of citizenship to be allowed, but it did require her to be given leave to enter the UK.
The Supreme Court has overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision, holding that the Home Secretary was not required to grant her leave to enter the UK to appeal against the withdrawal of her British Citizenship. The substantive challenge to removal of her British Citizenship is ongoing.
Angus McCullough QC acts as Special Advocate for Shahmima Begum, appearing with Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers. Judgment is available here and original news item here.
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