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Shamima Begum loses last chance to return to UK as citizenship appeal dismissed

Shamima Begum, who left the UK to join Isis aged 15, has lost an appeal to challenge the removal of her British citizenship.

The Court of Appeal judges unanimously agreed to dismiss the appeal.

Delivering the ruling on Friday, Lady Chief Justice Baroness Carr told the court: “It could be argued that the decision in Ms Begum’s case was harsh. It could also be argued that Ms Begum is the author of her own misfortune. But it is not for this court to agree or disagree with either point of view. Our only task is to assess whether the deprivation decision was unlawful. We have concluded it was not and the appeal is dismissed.”

Ms Begum travelled to Syria in 2015, and her citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Last year, the now 24-year-old, who remains in Syria, lost a challenge against the decision at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).

The SIAC dismissed her appeal on all grounds, ruling there was no fault in the Home Office’s decision to relinquish her citizenship.

Ms Begum’s lawyers brought a bid to overturn that decision at the Court of Appeal, with the Home Office opposing the challenge.

At a hearing in October, Samantha Knights KC told the court the Government had failed to consider the legal duties owed to Ms Begum as a potential victim of trafficking or as a result of “state failures” in her case.

She said in written submissions: “The appellant’s trafficking was a mandatory, relevant consideration in determining whether it was conducive to the public good and proportionate to deprive her of citizenship, but it was not considered by the Home Office.

“As a consequence, the deprivation decision was unlawful.”

Sir James Eadie KC, for the department, said decisions over whether someone is a victim of trafficking or whether they should be deprived of their citizenship “have fundamentally different bases and roles”.

He continued: “The focus in the trafficking regime is on the protection of the individual and there’s really no countervailing public interest at that point.

“But here the regime is different, the regime in operation is the deprivation regime and the rationale is entirely different, it is the protection of the public at large.”

Ms Begum was entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship via her parents at the time her British citizenship was revoked.

Bangladesh has said Ms Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen and she faces the death penalty if she enters the country.

As a result she has been left effectively stateless. Her lawyers argued that because of this the decision to deprive her of British citizenship was unlawful.

The UN convention on the reduction of statelessness prohibits the deprivation of nationality if it will render the person in question stateless.

Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 prohibits the making of an order to deprive a person of British citizenship if the consequence would make the person stateless.

The Chief Justice said the deprivation order did not make Ms Begum stateless as she still retained her Bangladeshi citizenship in February 2019.

Baroness Carr added that although ministerial submissions and accompanying documents put before the Home Secretary when he made the deprivation decision indicated that there was no realistic possibility of Ms Begum being permitted to enter Bangladesh, it was not necessary for the Secretary of State to also have been asked to consider the concept of de facto statelessness.

This is a breaking news story and it is being updated

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