The court of public opinion is riding high against last week’s Court of Appeal judgement that Shamima Begum should be permitted to return to the UK.
Ms Begum, aged 15, left the UK in February 2015 with two teenage school friends to join ISIS in Syria. She now regrets her decision to join ISIS and no longer regards herself as a threat to the UK, according to interviews given to the British press last year. Sajid Javid, then the home secretary, revoked her British citizenship shortly afterwards.
Begum’s lawyers appealed the decision, accusing the government of making her stateless and exposing her to the risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment. They appealed to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), a tribunal which hears challenges to the removal of a person’s British citizenship on national security grounds, but in February, it ruled the move lawful and said Begum would not be rendered stateless as she was a “citizen of Bangladesh by descent” at the time of the decision. Begum’s challenge to the decision to refuse her entry to the UK in order to pursue her appeal was also rejected.
However, earlier this month the Court of Appeal ruled that Ms Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to fight the decision to remove her British citizenship as she had been denied a fair and effective hearing because she could not make her case from the Syrian camp. The fact she could not communicate properly with her lawyers while in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) custody was cited. The Court also said that the national security concerns about her could be addressed and managed if she returns to the UK.
This latest decision is an obviously controversial one as the UK would need to effect Ms Begum’s entry the UK whilst they believe her to be a threat to national security. However, the UK government swiftly said it would appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court and apply for the Court of Appeal’s judgment to not be implemented until then.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
“This is a very disappointing decision by the Court. We will now apply for permission to appeal this judgment, and to stay its effects pending any onward appeal”.
“The Government’s top priority remains maintaining our national security and keeping the public safe”.
This unprecedented ruling has encouraged other families whose relatives joined ISIS in Syria that they also may be now be permitted to return to the UK to challenge decisions to deprive them of British citizenship and therefore exclude them from the UK .
Dominic Raab, The Foreign Secretary, has also added his weight against allowing the ruling to go unchallenged.
In a letter sent to Mr Raab, on behalf of other families who want their relatives to be allowed to returned from Syria, Imran Khan QC, wrote:
“It therefore clearly follows that our clients, who wish to pursue appeals against the deprivation of their British Nationality, be permitted to return to the United Kingdom with their children in order that they can fairly challenge the decision made against them in accordance with judgement of the Appeal Court… [additionally] that the Government of the United Kingdom facilitate their safe return”.
Other governments have voluntarily repatriated these fighters and sought to contain their threat through prosecutions, monitoring and intensive deradicalisation. The UK has so far refused to do the same.
In our view, the Supreme Court is unlikely to overturn the Court of Appeal’s decision due to the concerns the Court had and evidence presented that Ms Begum did not get a fair and effective hearing and that the Court offered suggestions on how the national security risk could addressed (prosecution for terrorism related offences of a TPIM Order) .
Whether this opens the gates to other British citizens who joined ISIS and have had their citizenship revoked remains to be seen. However, whilst each case will be different and turns on its own facts, there is now the possibility of such people making similar challenges to be given entry to the UK.
For advice and assistance on making a visa, immigration or nationality application or for any other immigration enquiry, please contact Mariam or another member of our expert Immigration team on 020 7631 4141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above is accurate as at 28 July 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.