In the wake of today’s special immigration appeals commission judgment about Shamima Begum’s status, it is important to be clear about what has been decided. The ruling basically says that being a child trafficking victim doesn’t mean the home secretary cannot strip you of citizenship.
Begum was not on trial today, despite what the radio phone-ins and tabloid headlines would have you think. At issue was whether the then home secretary, Sajid Javid, acted lawfully in depriving her of citizenship, leaving her effectively stateless. Despite finding that she was probably groomed and trafficked by Islamic State (IS) at the age of 15, the commission reluctantly found that it could not grant her appeal.
“Many right-thinking people will strongly take issue with the assessment of those advising the secretary of state,” the judgment observed, adding that “political rather than national security factors drove the outcome.”
The judges accepted that “as a matter of basic common sense” Begum was groomed in the UK; that it was not plausible that she could have organised her travel to Syria by herself; that there is credible suspicion she was trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation; and that UK institutions are likely to have failed in their duty to protect her.
That they nonetheless concluded that Javid did not need to take these factors into consideration when taking away her citizenship should chill us all, particularly the 6 million Brits with a claim to dual nationality who could be similarly stripped of a status they thought was secure. Read more from our Director Maya Foa in The Guardian.