The supreme court will announce next week whether Shamima Begum, who left London as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State in 2015, should be allowed back into the UK to challenge the removal of her British citizenship.
Begum was 15 when she fled to Syria to live under Isis rule for more than three years.
Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019. She had already lost two children and the third died shortly after being born.
Begum, now 21, is challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and wants to be allowed to return to the UK to pursue her appeal.
In July last year, the court of appeal ruled that “the only way in which she can have a fair and effective appeal is to be permitted to come into the United Kingdom to pursue her appeal”.
The Home Office challenged that decision at the supreme court in November, arguing that allowing her to return to the UK “would create significant national security risks” and expose the public to “an increased risk of terrorism”.
The UK’s highest court will give a judgment next Friday on whether Begum should be granted leave to enter the UK to pursue her appeal against the deprivation of her British citizenship.
The supreme court will also rule on whether, if Begum is refused leave to enter the UK, her appeal against the removal of her British citizenship should be allowed.
At the hearing in November, her lawyers said Begum was in al-Roj camp in northern Syria, where conditions are “dire”.
Lord Pannick QC told the court that the Syrian Democratic Forces, which control al-Roj camp, “do not permit visits from lawyers nor do they permit detainees to speak to lawyers”.
He said the case against Begum was “no more than that she travelled to Syria and ‘aligned with IS”’, and that “it is not alleged that she fought, trained or participated in any terrorist activities, nor that she had any role within IS”.
Pannick added that if Begum could not return to the UK to pursue an effective appeal “the deprivation appeal must be allowed”, as there is “no other fair or just step that can be taken”.
Extracts of MI5 assessments of the dangers posed by the return of those who joined Isis were read out at the hearing.
Sir James Eadie QC, for the Home Office, told the court the assessments gauged that Begum presented a serious threat “justifying the removal of her British citizenship and … the placing of serious impediments in the way of her return to the UK”.
He added: “She is assessed to pose a real and current threat to national security. She is aligned with [Isis]. During the four years she has spent in Islamic State territory she had undergone radicalisation and ‘desensitisation to violence’.”
The court was also told that Home Office officials declared “public sentiment is overwhelmingly hostile” to Begum and argued removing her British citizenship would not affect community relations.
Begum and Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, then 16 and 15 respectively, boarded a flight from Gatwick to Istanbul, Turkey, on 17 February 2015, before making their way to Raqqa in Syria.
The three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green Academy left London shortly after Sharmeena Begum, who is no relation, travelled to Syria in December 2014.
Begum claims she married Dutch convert Yago Riedijk 10 days after arriving in Isis territory, with all three of her school friends also reportedly marrying foreign Isis fighters.
She told the Times in February 2019 that she left Raqqa in January 2017 with her husband, but her children, a one-year-old girl and a three-month-old boy, had both since died.