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Woman loses bid to restore UK citizenship after joining IS group

#Woman #loses #bid #restore #citizenship #joining #group

A woman who was stripped of her British citizenship after travelling to Syria as a teenager to marry an Islamic State group fighter lost her legal battle on Wednesday to reverse the decision.

The ruling from Judge Robert Jay means that Shamima Begum, 23, cannot return to the UK from her current home in a refugee camp in northern Syria.

Begum was aged 15 when she left her east London home for Syria with two school friends in 2015. While there, she married an IS fighter and had three children, none of whom survived.

In February 2019, she said she was left stateless when Britain’s then home secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds after she was found in the Syrian camp.

A UK tribunal ruled in 2020 that she was not stateless because she was “a citizen of Bangladesh by descent”.

The UK Supreme Court last year refused Begum permission to enter the UK to fight her citizenship case. She subsequently took her case to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).

In rejecting her appeal on Wednesday, Jay said “under our constitutional settlement these sensitive issues are for the secretary of state to evaluate and not for the commission”.

He said, however, that there was “considerable force” in Begum’s arguments and that Javid’s conclusion that she travelled voluntarily to Syria “is as stark as it is unsympathetic.

“Further, there is some merit in the argument that those advising the secretary of state see this as a black and white issue, when many would say that there are shades of grey,” he added.

– Trafficking claims –

The interior ministry said it was “pleased that the court has found in favour of the government’s position”.

Begum is one of hundreds of Europeans whose fate following the 2019 collapse of the Islamist extremists’ self-styled caliphate has proved a thorny issue for governments.

Begum’s lawyer, Samantha Knights, told the five-day SIAC hearing last November that Begum had been “influenced” along with her friends by a “determined and effective” IS group “propaganda machine”.

There was “overwhelming” evidence she had been “recruited, transported, transferred, harboured and received in Syria for the purposes of ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘marriage’ to an adult male”, she added in written submissions.

The process by which the government took the decision to remove Begum’s citizenship was “extraordinary” and “over hasty”, she added.

James Eadie, representing the government, said Begum “travelled, aligned, and stayed in Syria for four years” and that she only left IS-controlled territory for safety reasons “and not because of a genuine disengagement from the group”.

Javid “properly considered” all the factors before making his decision, and the case was about “national security”, not trafficking, he added.

Begum’s apparent lack of remorse in initial interviews drew outrage, but she has since expressed regret for her actions and sympathy for IS victims.

In a documentary last year, she said that on arrival in Syria she quickly realised IS were “trapping people” to boost the caliphate’s numbers and “look good”.

Some 900 people are estimated to have travelled from Britain to Syria and Iraq to join IS. Of those, around 150 are believed to have been stripped of their citizenship.

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