Shamima Begum appeals UK citizenship loss with child trafficking claim

Immigration panel to hear appeal against 2019 decision to remove ISIS bride's citizenship over links to extremist group

epa07369238 (FILE) - A handout photo made available by the London Metropolitan Police Service(MPS) on 20 February 2015 showing Shamima Begum one of three schoolgirls at Gatwick Airport, southern England, 17 February 2015 who have been reported missing and are believed to be making their way to Syria. Media reports on 14 February 2019 state that Shamima Begum, aged 19 who is in a refugee camp in Syria wants to return to Britain with her baby, her other two children both have died in the conflict. Shamima Begum said that one of her two school friends was killed in a bombing and the other's whereabouts is not known.  EPA/LONDON METROPLITAN POLICE / HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES *** Local Caption *** 51809500
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ISIS bride Shamima Begum was a child trafficking victim who was "cynically recruited and groomed”, a British court has heard as she seeks the return of her citizenship.

Ms Begum, now 23, was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the extremist group in February 2015.

Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019. Sajid Javid, home secretary at the time, stripped Ms Begum of her nationality but her lawyers say he failed to take all factors properly into account.

At the start of a five-day hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) on Monday, Samantha Knights KC, for Ms Begum, said there was overwhelming evidence her client was recruited, transported, transferred, harboured and received in Syria.

“This case concerns a British child aged 15 who was persuaded, influenced and affected with her friends by a determined and effective ISIS propaganda machine,” she said. “She was following a well-known pattern by which ISIS cynically recruited and groomed female children, as young as 14, so that they could be offered as ‘wives’ to adult men.”

The Supreme Court last year rejected Ms Begum's plea that she should be allowed back into the UK to argue her case before the courts.

But her lawyers are expected to argue her citizenship case at a hearing of the Siac in London, which is expected to last five days.

A family lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, has cited claims that a Canadian intelligence agent was involved in smuggling Ms Begum and her friends Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase across the Turkish border to Syria.

“It is now fairly well settled that she and her friends were transported across borders … by a Canadian asset of the Canadian security forces,” he told AFP.

“The very definition of trafficking is pretty well established by that.”

Former home secretary Sajid Javid cancelled Ms Begum's citizenship in 2019. Reuters

Ms Begum was a UK-Bangladeshi dual citizen before travelling to Syria, meaning Mr Javid could cancel her UK citizenship without making her stateless.

She was found by journalists heavily pregnant in a camp in Syria as the so-called ISIS caliphate collapsed in early 2019.

Mr Javid argued that her return to Britain “would present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom” because of her alignment with ISIS.

Seen at the time as showing little remorse, Ms Begum last year apologised to the British public while saying she had been groomed by ISIS.

“You are clearly struggling with extremism and terrorism in the country,” she said, addressing the British government from Syria. "I want to help with that, telling my own experience with these extremists."

A new book this year by security correspondent Richard Kerbaj claimed that a handler for Ms Begum had been found in possession of bus tickets for the schoolgirls.

It claimed the operative, identified as Mohammed Al Rashed, was recruited as a double agent by Canadian security services at a time when western governments feared their young people would join ISIS.

Ms Sultana is believed to have died in a Russian air strike while Ms Abase's fate is unknown.

Updated: November 24, 2022, 5:14 AM
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