Shamima Begum’s lawyer tells UK’s top court many ISIS returnees are ‘low risk’

Briton, now 21, wants to return from Syria after leaving aged 15 to marry ISIS fighter

FILE PHOTO: Renu Begum, sister of teenage British girl Shamima Begum, holds a photo of her sister as she makes an appeal for her to return home at Scotland Yard, in London, Britain February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Laura Lean/Pool/File Photo

Hundreds of ISIS fighters who have returned the UK have been assessed as “low risk”, according to Shamima Begum’s lawyer as he argues against concerns she will pose a security risk if allowed to return.

Begum, who was born to Bangladeshi parents in Britain, left London in 2015 when she was 15 and travelled to Syria via Turkey with two school friends to join ISIS.

She was stripped of her British citizenship last year, but in July the Court of Appeal unanimously agreed that Begum, now 21, could only appeal fairly and effectively if she was allowed back into Britain.

The UK's Home Office has taken the case to the Supreme Court to challenge that decision on the grounds that the 21-year-old still poses a threat to national security.

Her barrister, Lord David Pannick QC, told the court on Tuesday that many ISIS fighters returning to the UK have been assessed as low risk.

“Around 900 people have travelled from the UK to Syria. Of those 20 per cent have been killed in the conflict zone and around 40 per cent have returned to the UK, about 400 people,” he said.

“They have been individually assessed as a low risk. Those who remain in the conflict zone are some of the most dangerous.

“I draw attention to that because it demonstrates that it is necessary to assess the individual circumstances of the individual cases. Despite the greater danger from those who have been there longer, it is not the case that everyone who has travelled to Syria poses a security risk.

“What degree, if any, Ms Begum will pose on her return inevitably depends on the circumstances of her case. The purpose of the appeal is to examine and determine the facts.”

He cited previous comments made by the Home Office claiming that it has a “range of tough measures” to protect the public from returning ISIS fighters.

“She has a right to a meaningful appeal and she is being denied the right to a meaningful appeal,” he added.

Earlier, Sir James Eadie QC, for the British government, argued that Begum should not be allowed to return.

"The assessment was that she presented a current threat, justifying the removal of her British citizenship and thereby placing serious practical and legal impediments on national security grounds in the way of her return to the United Kingdom," he told the court on Monday.

“She was aligned with ISIS, she was radicalised when young and is just as much a threat as a person radicalised later.”

In Syria, Begum married an ISIS fighter and lived in Raqqa, where she remained for four years until she was discovered in a detention camp. She has had three children since leaving Britain, but all the infants have since died.

The Supreme Court is considering whether Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to appeal against the deprivation of her British citizenship and whether, if she is refused leave to enter the UK, her citizenship should be restored.

The hearing is due to finish on Tuesday with a decision expected to be handed down at a later date.

Begum is currently in the al-Roj detention camp in northern Syria.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS