Shamima Begum, who left the UK to join ISIS in Syria about seven years, would face capital punishment if she were to return to Bangladesh, the country of her origin, a court heard.
Born in east London to Bangladeshi immigrants, she travelled to Syria in 2015 when she was a schoolgirl, aged 15. Britain stripped her of her citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds, with the Home Office contending that she had Bangladeshi citizenship.
Bangladesh’s foreign minister in May 2019 confirmed Begum could face the death penalty for involvement in terrorism if she went to Bangladesh, according to a Guardian report.
Her barrister Dan Squires KC told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) that Sajid Javid, the home secretary at the time, did not consider the “serious practical consequences” of removing her UK citizenship, given that she had never visited Bangladesh.
“It is clear that he gave no consideration to the prospect that the deprivation decision would render the appellant de facto stateless,” the barrister said in his submissions.
“The home secretary has not responded to the allegation that the decision-maker neither directed his mind to this issue nor took steps such as contacting the Bangladeshi authorities to find out their position regarding the appellant,” Squires said.
If such inquiries were carried out, “the Bangladesh authorities would have confirmed that the appellant would be hanged if she entered the country,” he added.
However, Home Office lawyers contended that the argument “appears to amount to an assertion that the secretary of state is under a duty to seek the views of foreign governments before he decides whether to deprive one of their nationals of their British citizenship.”
“Such an argument, were Siac to accept it, would have very serious consequences – indeed, it would likely render the entire deprivation regime inoperable,” the lawyers said.
In a statement, Begum’s mother Asma described how the family was devastated after her daughter ran away from home and how she thought of her “almost every hour of every day”.
“When she left home in 2015, our worlds fell apart. Her drawers are still full, her perfume, pens and jewellery, and her clothes are still there. Her pyjamas are folded neatly. Her school blazer is still hanging on the door in the front room, just as it was when she left.”
Squires said Asma’s statement showed “a powerful indication” of the connection between Begum and her family.