Can Shamima Begum legally be stripped of her British citizenship?

THE Home Office is set to strip a British teenager who ran away to join the so-called Islamic State of her citizenship, her family have been told.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 7:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 8:54 am
Shamima Begum, going through security at Gatwick airport, before catching a flight to Turkey in 2015 to join the Islamic State group. Picture: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Shamima Begum, who is now 19, was found in a refugee camp in Syria last month, gave birth to a baby boy at the weekend, and wants to return to the UK.

Questions have now been raised about whether she can legally be stripped of her citizenship as she is a British national. 

International law forbids nations from making people stateless by revoking their only citizenship.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Shamima Begum, going through security at Gatwick airport, before catching a flight to Turkey in 2015 to join the Islamic State group. Picture: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

It is not known if Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, holds dual citizenship.

There has been speculation that the Home Office believes that he may be able to act against her because her mother holds a Bangladeshi passport.

Read More

Read More
Shamima Begum: Schoolgirl who left UK to join ISIS to be stripped of British cit...

Barrister David Anderson QC, who previously served as a reviewer of terrorism legislation, told the Press Association: ‘Those born as British citizens who are not dual nationals cannot be stripped of their citizenship in any circumstances.’

CCTV still of (left to right) 15-year-old Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Shamima Begum who fled the country to join ISIS. Picture: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

A 2017 government report on the issue said the Home Secretary has the power to ‘deprive a person of British citizenship’ if it would be ‘conducive to the public good’.

However, this only applies if the person would not be left stateless. If it is the case Ms Begum is a dual national, she could have her British citizenship stripped.

According to the letter, Ms Begum has the right to appeal the decision to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).

The SIAC is independent of the Government and allows individuals to appeal against immigration decisions by the Home Office, such as deportations and the removal of citizenship.

Those who are outside of the UK have 28 days to lodge an appeal from the time they receive their Home Office letter.

Amendments were made to British national laws in 2014 which made it easier to strip dual nationals of their British citizenship.

These measures were primarily aimed at terrorists who could potentially undermine UK security, for example those who fled to Syria to fight and were attempting to return home.

There are two other instances when British citizenship can be removed, which are permissible even if the person would be rendered stateless.

Deprivation of citizenship can be made if a person obtained their citizenship through registration or naturalisation and the Home Secretary is ‘satisfied that this was obtained by fraud, false representation or the concealment of a material fact’.

Secondly, when citizenship is obtained through naturalisation and the Home Secretary believes that removing it would be ‘conducive to the public good’ because the person acted in way which is ‘seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of United Kingdom, any of the Islands, or any British overseas territory’.

However, this power, introduced in the Immigration Act 2014, can only be used if there are reasonable grounds for believing the person is able to acquire citizenship of another country, thereby avoiding remaining stateless.

Figures for 2017 show that 104 people were deprived of their British citizenship - up from 14 in the previous year.