The legal status of Shamima Begum

In the recent weeks you will have all heard of the story of Shamima Begum, English schoolgirl who fled to join an Islamic state group in Syria. She recently expressed her wishes to return to the UK, following the news that she was pregnant, and wished for her child to have a safer and more stable upbringing than the one that could be provided in Syria. Whilst Ms Begum does not express any regret in regard to her decision to join the Islamic State group, she does ask for forgiveness and claims that she still believes in some British values.

The case of Ms Begum caused British people to be divided in opinion somewhat. There are obvious worries for the safety and security of the British Public. However, there are also legal principles to consider.

The most recent update on this case, on 19thFebruary, was that UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid had announced that an order was to be made stripping Ms Begum of her British citizenship. However, there are certain legal complications which mean that this is not as simple as it seems in principle. The home secretary has the power to strip someone of their British citizenship if it is done on the basis that it is “conducive to the public good”, as long as the person would not become stateless as a result. It is this issue of statelessness which causes problems in this case.

As both of Ms Begum’s parents are from Bangladesh, and Ms Begum is under 21, it is possible for her to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship. Therefore, revoking her British citizenship is possible as she will not be left stateless as a result. Her newly born child however is in a different situation. As Ms Begum was of British citizenship when her baby was born, that makes him eligible for British citizenship also. It has been stated by Sajid Javid, that Ms Begum’s son’s citizenship rights have been unaffected by his decisions, therefore satisfying the relevant family law within this country, there would be no problem with him living in this country without her, if she would prefer him to be brought up here.

Ms Begum has several options now- she could apply for Bangladeshi citizenship, she could stay in Syria, or she could apply for citizenship in Holland. Ms Begum’s husband is from Holland, so it would be possible for them to return there- subject to Holland’s own legal processes.

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