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Girl Who Joined ISIL can Return to the UK to Fight for Citizenship

On February 17, 2015, 15-year-old Shamima Begum who left the UK to join the infamous militant group-ISIS, now, as a 20-year-old, hopes to return again as a citizen after having lived through the death of her three children, her husband's captivity as well as other ravaging circumstances.

On 3rd May 2019, Begum, who had been stripped of her citizenship in February 2019 on national security grounds, applied for “leave to enter” the UK which entailed that she may enter or remain in the UK as a non-citizen for a limited period.

Begum did this so that she could fight for her citizenship in person in the UK. However, the application was rejected by the government on 13th June 2019, which led to her appealing the judgment on 25th June 2019.

The British Nationality Act 1981 of states “The Secretary of State may by order deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good.” However, the law clearly also states, “The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (2) if he is satisfied that the order would make a person stateless.”

A stateless person is one who does not possess citizenship in any country.

Her side argued that she had been improperly deprived of her citizenship, but the opposition denied this and further argued that due to her mother’s alleged Bangladeshi background, she was entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship and was not considered stateless.

This ruling has been appealed yet again by Begum because she had never even stepped foot in Bangladesh, held a passport, or any sort of record in the Bangladesh government. This justifies their practical position that Begum is stateless.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid says that he is “deeply concerned” about this decision because if Begum came to the UK, "it will prove impossible to subsequently remove her". He believes that “allowing her back into the UK to pursue an appeal would create a national security risk that cannot be fully mitigated.” Due to this, he says, “We will now apply for permission to appeal this judgment, and to stay its effects pending any onward appeal,”

Lord Justice Julian Flaux who in the judgment stated “Fairness and justice must, on the facts of this case, outweigh the national security concerns, so that the LTE [Leave to Enter] appeals should be allowed,”. The judge also said that the national security concerns regarding her "could be addressed and managed if she returns to the United Kingdom".

Even now, it remains unclear what exact roles Begum played in ISIS or how deep her support for the militant group went. “I’m not the same silly little 15-year-old schoolgirl who ran away from Bethnal Green four years ago,” she told the Times. Her attorney told the Associated Press, “But the stripping of her citizenship without a chance to clear her name is not justice — it is the opposite.” She says that she does believe in many British values and is willing to rehabilitate. Moreover, in recent interviews, she even regarded herself as a separate entity from ISIS.

The outcome of this case, however, remains uncertain due to factors such as the larger implication it holds for the people in the same situation as her worldwide, but for now, we can rest assured that both parties will work tirelessly until justice is served.

Reporter- Katyayani Nath

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