Shamima Begum, who was stripped off her UK citizenship in 2019 after she travelled to Islamic State-controlled Syria when she was 15, would face death penalty if sent back to Bangladesh, a court heard. Her lawyers said that the decision was taken without considering that she might have been trafficked into Syria.
They further said that the then home secretary, Sajid Javid, did not take into account the “serious practical consequences” of removing her UK citizenship in 2019.
“It is clear that he gave no consideration to the prospect that the deprivation decision would render the appellant de facto stateless,” Dan Squires KC, for Begum, told the hearing.
The Home Office has stressed that Begum was a risk to national security in 2019, and based on MI5 assesses, she still poses a risk to the country.
Her lawyers said that the government’s own evidence suggests that she was trafficked into Syria for sexual exploitation in 2015.
Begum left her home at the age of 15 and went to Syria with two other schoolgirls – Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-old Amira Abase. She then married a Dutch IS recruit and lived there for more than three years. In 2019, the Times newspaper found her in a Syrian refugee camp. She left the place and two weeks later her citizenship was revoked.
“There is nothing in any of the home secretary’s evidence which suggests that consideration was given – prior to the deprivation decision being taken, or indeed at any time – to matters relating to de facto citizenship,” Squires said in submissions.
Her lawyer Samantha Knights told the court that getting her married in Syria was part of the IS agenda, and MI5 knew about it. She described the decision as “hugely draconian – effectively an exile for life”, while Dan Squires called it as “permanent banishment” from the UK.
They also suggested that Javid had already “made up his mind” to strip her off citizenship before even seeing all the official documentation.
They also argued that there was no inquiry made about whether Bangladesh will recognise her as a citizen and offer her protection.
“The home secretary has not responded to the allegation that the decision-maker neither directed his mind to this issue, nor took steps such as contacting the Bangladeshi authorities to find out their position regarding the appellant,” Squires said.
He said that had this been done, “the Bangladesh authorities would have confirmed that the appellant would be hanged if she entered the country”.
(With inputs from agencies)