February 21, 2019Counter-Terrorism Repatriation Marginalised and vulnerable groups
In response to the Home Secretary’s decision of 19 February 2019 to deprive Shamima Begum of her British citizenship, Executive Director of Rights Watch (UK), Yasmine Ahmed commented:
“First and foremost it must be remembered that Shamima Begum is likely a victim of grooming, recruitment and trafficking. Should her situation have occurred in the United Kingdom, if for example she was the victim of grooming in Rotherham, she would be considered a victim, and in the case of Rotherham, her abusers stripped of their citizenship. Instead she is banished.
Shamima’s case highlights the failure of the UK Government to take account of the circumstances where alleged involvement of women in terrorism, and in this instance a child, is possibly linked to intimidation or vulnerability in the context of abuse and coercion. This is in violation of the UK’s international obligations and is neither an ethical nor effective approach to countering terrorism.
Deprivation of citizenship is a significant power that has far and wide ranging implications yet it is held exclusively in the hands of the Home Secretary. We need to be certain that the power is not used in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner.
In the case of Shamima Begum there are serious questions about whether and to what extent Sajid Javid MP took account of the fact Shamima was likely groomed, recruited and trafficked as a minor, and is possibly at risk of ill-treatment at the hands of the Syrian and/or Bangledeshi authorities. There are also serious questions about the legality of her deprivation as it appears that she neither holds nor is entitled to Bangladeshi nationality.
It is imperative that Sajid Javid MP explains why it is that Shamima could not have returned to the UK with her baby and as appropriate, been subject to the criminal law, of which there are multiple and expanding offences, and/or rehabilitation and reintegration. According to the UK’s own 2018 counter terrorism strategy, hundreds of women and children have returned from Syria and Iraq since the beginning of the conflict, a significant proportion of whom are considered to no longer pose a security threat.
It is now time for the Government to develop, consult on and publish a well-considered evidenced based policy on those returning from Iraq and Syria. The use of measures such as deprivation of citizenship should be subject to appropriate safeguards and it should be clear how and in what circumstances they will be used. As noted by a growing number of security experts, depriving citizens who allegedly pose a security risk to places where we have no control is short sighted and counter productive. Deprivation of citizenship should not be used as a quick fix solution for fear of a lack of evidence to prosecute returnees. This is no time for political posturing or ill developed strategies, the UK Government must take our security seriously as people return from Iraq and Syria.”
For more information contact Yasmine Ahmed (Director) on 0203 603 0972 or
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