Shamima Begum: Labour's Starmer says court was right to reject citizenship appeal
Labour leader Keir Starmer on Thursday said he supported a court ruling dismissing an appeal by Shamima Begum challenging the UK government over the removal of her British citizenship.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) on Wednesday rejected Begum's appeal on all grounds but acknowledged there was "credible suspicion" she was trafficked to Syria for the purposes of sexual exploitation when she travelled to Islamic State-controlled territory aged 15 in 2015.
Speaking to the BBC, Starmer said he thought the judgment was "the right decision".
"Obviously, the court has looked at all of the information, got all the evidence, not only that was available at the time, but all the evidence that's available since then," he said.
'[The SIAC judgment] misses the opportunity to clarify what actually happens to people whose human rights are violated while making national security threat assessments'
- Professor Devyani Prabhat
"National security has to come first. The court's reached its decision; it's looked at all the evidence. I support that decision and as I say, national security has to come first."
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Lisa Nandy, Labour's shadow levelling up secretary, echoed Starmer's stance and said: "We would follow the advice of the security services [if Labour comes to power]."
"I don't think [Shamima Begum] should be welcome on our streets. We should make a decision in the interest of the British people and what keeps us safe," Nandy told Times Radio.
"During the court hearing, the court was privy to information that the rest of us haven't seen - from the security services - who believe that we would not be safe if that decision made by the previous home secretary was reversed and we support that."
Starmer's statement supporting the court judgment is a far cry from four years ago when he opposed Britain revoking Begum's citizenship.
Commenting in 2019 on the decision by then-home secretary Sajid Javid to rescind Begum's citizenship, Starmer had called it "the wrong decision and... a rushed decision".
Begum's lawyers, Birnberg Peirce and Partners, criticised SIAC's decision and said concerns raised by the commission of the UK Supreme Court's decision to give "deference" to the Home Secretary on national security issues was alarming.
"In its judgment, the commission points again and again to the supreme court’s decision; that it can only look at administrative law grounds which allow an almost impenetrable deference to the secretary of state in reaching conclusions where national security is raised despite the commission’s comments that many right-thinking people will strongly take issue with the assessment of those advising the secretary of state.”
Professor Devyani Prabhat, a legal scholar at the University of Bristol, said the SIAC decision "leaves a lot of unanswered questions for victims of trafficking and the rights of children."
"[The SIAC judgment] misses the opportunity to clarify what actually happens to people whose human rights are violated while making national security threat assessments," Prabhat told Middle East Eye.
"So the SIAC finds there is state failure in preventing trafficking of a child but yet does not consider this to be relevant for an assessment of present or future risk to national security."
Begum absconded from her home in east London in 2015 with two school friends, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, travelling first to Turkey, and then into IS-controlled territory.
The ruling means Begum will not be eligible to reclaim her British citizenship, which was stripped from her in 2019 after she was found detained among the families of suspected IS fighters in a Kurdish-controlled detention camp in northeastern Syria.
Begum remains in a detention camp alongside tens of thousands of other women and children, many of whom were detained as territory previously under the control of IS militants was captured by Kurdish-led forces backed by an international coalition.
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