Shamima Begum, who left London to join the Islamic State (IS) as a schoolgirl in 2015, has won the right to return to the UK to challenge the Home Secretary's decision to revoke her British citizenship, in person.
The court of appeal had partially overturned a February 2020 ruling by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) which had held that the stripping of her UK citizenship rights, while she was in war-torn Syria, was legal since she was entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship and was not rendered 'stateless' by the UK Home Office decision.
Begum, who was 15 years old when she fled from Bethnal Green in east London in February 2015 and married a Dutch Muslim convert as a so-called ISIS "jihadi bride" in Syria, had in early 2020 lost her first stage of appeal against the decision of the UK Home Office to revoke her British citizenship at the UK's Special Immigration Appeals Commission, according to The Guardian.
The UK Court of Appeal has now held that she had been denied a fair hearing because she could not fight her case from the Syrian camp.
The earlier judgement
The February judgment by the Siac against Begum's stripping of UK citizenship rights, was based on three preliminary grounds.
The primary one was that she wasn't deprived of the citizenship rights unjustly.
It was said in the ruling that when she was stripped of her UK citizenship, Begum “was a citizen of Bangladesh by descent, by virtue of [Bangladeshi nationality legislation]. She held that citizenship as of right. That citizenship was not in the gift of the [Bangladesh] government and could not be denied by the [Bangladesh] government in any circumstances.”
Her lawyer argued that Begum, who remains in the camp in northern Syria, could not effectively challenge the decision of revoking her citizenship while she was barred from returning to the UK.
The court of appeal agreed and partially overturned the earlier decision and allowed her to return to the UK to challenge the Home Office's decision.
According to the Guardian, Lord Justice Flaux, with the endorsement of two other judges, decided that “Notwithstanding the national security concerns about Ms Begum, I have reached the firm conclusion that given that the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal, fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns.”
UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid had stripped Begum of her British citizenship in 2019.
His successor as the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, also backed that decision and ruled out the prospect of her return to the UK.
"We cannot have people who would do us harm allowed to enter our country ... and that includes this woman," said Patel, in reference to Begum, who had pleaded with the authorities to allow her to return to her family in the UK.
Under UK law, a person can legally have their citizenship revoked but they cannot be made stateless.
(With inputs from PTI)