THE UK government has won a bid for the Supreme Court to decide if a woman stripped of her citizenship after joining the Islamic State group in Syria can return to fight the decision.
The Home Office successfully appealed a lower court ruling this month which would have allowed Shamima Begum, 20, to return to Britain to pursue her appeal.
Begum, 20, who is currently marooned in a Syrian refugee camp, lost the first stage of her case about the legality of the government’s decision at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in February.
However, the tribunal also ruled she could not have a “fair and effective appeal” or play “any meaningful part” in the process, as she was living in a Syrian refugee camp.
Three senior judges at the Court of Appeal upheld that SIAC ruling on July 16, concluding Begum should be allowed to come to Britain for the legal challenge.
They ruled “fairness and justice” outweighed any national security concerns, which “could be addressed and managed if she returns”.
Terming the decision “very disappointing”, the Home Office had said it would seek permission for an appeal.
Sir James Eadie, representing the Home Office, told the court on Friday (31) that there was a “big issue at stake… an issue of real pressing public importance” which was “perhaps the central democratic issue of our times”.
Justice Eleanor King, the head of the panel of three judges at the Court of Appeal, which included Lord Justice Rabinder Singh, allowed the permission to appeal
She said at the remote hearing that the country’s highest court should consider the case that raised “points of law of general public importance”.
Begum was 15 when she and two other schoolgirls from Bethnal Green in east London left home to join the jihadist group on February 17, 2015.
She claims she married a Dutch convert soon after arriving in IS-held territory. She was discovered, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February last year.
Her newborn baby died soon after she gave birth. Two of her other children also died under IS rule.
The then-home secretary, Sajid Javid, annulled Begum’s British citizenship on national security grounds after an outcry led by right-wing media.
That prompted her to take legal action, arguing the decision was unlawful, made her stateless and exposed her to the risk of death or inhuman and degrading treatment.
Javid’s successor, Priti Patel, had also 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 the home secretary.
British-born Begum is of Bangladeshi heritage. But Bangladesh’s foreign minister has maintined that the country would not consider granting her citizenship.