Removing Shamima Begum's citizenship is a cruel, politically-motivated policy that has done nothing to keep us safe

7 March 2024, 13:46 | Updated: 7 March 2024, 17:00

British citizenship and human rights at a crossroads: the controversial case of Shamima Begum and Camp Roj's forgotten children
British citizenship and human rights at a crossroads: the controversial case of Shamima Begum and Camp Roj's forgotten children. Picture: LBC/Getty
Maya Foa

By Maya Foa

Camp Roj in North East Syria is an open-air prison, patrolled by men with guns, where British children are growing up behind barbed wire, malnourished and without proper education or medical care because their government refuses to bring them home.

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That ministers are prepared to do this to British kids shocks me every time I go there.

It is also where Shamima Begum has been imprisoned without charge or trial for the past five years.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid deprived her of British citizenship when she was 19 years old and mourning a third child, and she has been stuck there, stripped of all her rights, ever since.

Yesterday a group of United Nations legal experts weighed in on her case. “There is a credible suspicion that Ms Begum was recruited, transferred and then harboured for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” they said.

Last month, Britain’s own Court of Appeal referred to “the likelihood that she was a child victim of others who wished to exploit her for sexual or extremist reasons".

It is well-documented that ISIS targeted vulnerable British girls and young women and that UK institutions failed in their duty to protect them.

Remember, Shamima was 15 years old and studying for her mock GCSEs when she was groomed. The idea that she should be sent into exile for the rest of her life because she was targeted by a trafficking gang runs contrary to good sense and basic humanity.

Former Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption has made the point that depriving Ms Begum of UK citizenship leaves her stateless. The United Nations legal experts agreed.

The Government’s claim that she could be a citizen of Bangladesh, a country she has never visited and that has publicly stated it will not accept her, reveals a racist, two-tier citizenship regime.

Britain is alone among G20 nations in stripping citizenship in bulk. Only Bahrain and Nicaragua have deprived more people of citizenship in the last two decades.

This cruel, politically-motivated policy has done nothing to keep us safe - in fact security experts agree that the detention camps are ticking timebomb. That’s why every one of our allies is repatriating families from North East Syria.

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