Citizenship, Statelessness, and Legal Controversies

By 11th March 2024 No Comments
A picture of someone holding a new UK passport

Taylor Hampton Assists with Immigration Matters

Who is Shamima Begum?

⁤Shamima Begum, a 21-year-old British national, has been embroiled in a legal battle ever since her British citizenship was taken away in 2019.  She was born in the Bethnal Green neighbourhood of London and left the country at the age of fifteen together with two friends. ⁤⁤ Together, they planned to join the Islamic State in Syria.. Despite concerns raised by her school, authorities did not perceive an immediate threat in her departure from the UK.

Subsequently, she wed a Dutch ISIL combatant shortly after reaching Syria.  This is where she bore three children who tragically passed away as infants four years later. Following the collapse of the Islamic State in January 2019, Begum was apprehended by Syrian Democratic Forces and relocated to a refugee camp in Al-Hawl. Her citizenship was revoked shortly after she made her inaugural media appearance in February 2019.  This appearance raised questions regarding her rights and future. Additionally, she possessed Bangladeshi citizenship through her parents, but lost it upon turning 21, rendering her stateless following the UK’s ruling.

Begum contested the revoking of her citizenship, citing its illegality. She presented various grounds for her argument, such as breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) concerning slavery and trafficking, the proportionality of the deprivation ruling, her stateless status, procedural fairness, and the duty of equality in the public sector. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) acknowledged a plausible suspicion that Begum had been trafficked for sexual exploitation and recognized shortcomings on the part of UK authorities in preventing her departure. Nevertheless, despite these conclusions, her initial appeal was rejected in February 2023.

Following Begum’s Appeal

The Court of Appeal dismissed Begum’s appeal in its decision ([2024] EWCA Civ 152).  The ruling was that the arguments pertaining to potential violations of Article 4 of the ECHR (prohibition of slavery) were not relevant to the citizenship revocation decision. Additionally, the court determined that the Home Secretary was not obligated to consider repatriating Begum.  The appeal based on common law grounds regarding trafficking considerations was also rejected.  Additionally, the argument concerning her effective statelessness and the procedural fairness of the deprivation decision faced the same denial. The court agreed with the Home Secretary that prior representations were not necessary for such decisions.

The ultimate reason for appeal, pertaining to the obligation of equality in the public sector was dismissed.  This dismissal was based on an exception in the Equality Act 2010, which states that the deprivation of citizenship did not unfairly discriminate against British Muslims or damage community relationships.

Legal Precedent Going Forward

This particular case draws attention to the complex relationship between national security concerns and individual rights, particularly in relation to citizenship revocation and statelessness. The circumstances surrounding Shamima Begum highlight the challenges faced by individuals who, as minors, made choices that led to severe consequences.  These consequences include the loss of their nationality and the inability to return to their country of birth. The decision made by the Court of Appeal places Begum in a precarious situation.  Begum is now left without citizenship and with limited prospects for the future. This case raises significant questions about redemption, the rights of children, and the lasting impact of statelessness, echoing the concerns expressed by former Supreme Court judge Jonathan Sumption regarding the irreversible effects of such decisions on young lives.


For more information on immigration law or questions regarding the subject, please contact Leena Chouhan, who is a Senior Associate at Taylor Hampton and the head of the firms Immigration legal department, at 020 7427 5972, or email on [email protected].