Police should have helped Shamima Begum return to Britain after joining Islamic State in Syria because there were grounds to suspect she had been groomed as a child bride, a court has heard.
Samantha Knights KC told a court that police had a duty to investigate whether Begum, who was 15 when she left the UK, was a victim of human trafficking and then immigration help her back if she was.
On day two of a Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) hearing, the Knights said the children “cannot consent to their own exploitation.”
She told the hearing: “Children allegedly associated or affiliated with terrorist groups are often, in fact, victims of terrorism and trafficking.”
Knights said the government has an obligation to prevent trafficking, identify perpetrators, assist victims and help them return home.
Begum, now 23, left her home in east London in 2015 while a GCSE student at Bethnal Green Academy. She married an IS soldier from the Netherlands days after her arrival and had three children, none of whom survived.
She was stripped of her British citizenship on national security grounds in February 2019 by then Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
The Government’s Modern Slavery Strategy, introduced in November 2014, imposed obligations to prosecute perpetrators, prevent engagement in slavery or exploitation, and improve victim identification.
“Children cannot consent to being trafficked, or to child marriage,” Knights said.
Under international law, a child marriage occurs when at least one of the parties is under the age of 18 and is considered a forced marriage, Knights told the hearing.
Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights imposes an operational obligation to assist victims of trafficking and to assist in their rescue and recovery, the court said.
Knights said: “It is indisputable that there was a credible suspicion that Miss Begum was being trafficked and therefore there was a duty to investigate whether she was being trafficked from the UK and what what they could do in terms of recovery.”
She added: “In this case we say there were missed opportunities by the school and the police.”
No consideration was given by Javid to the “clear importance” of rescuing, recovering and rehabilitating Begum as a trafficked child, his lawyers said.
On Dec. 10, 2014, two months before he left for Syria, an assessment conducted by Bethnal Green Academy said Begum was “at risk of radicalization”, the court heard.
It was noted that “she was a close friend” of Sharmeena Begum, who left for Syria after leaving school.
The police gave Shamima Begum and her friends a letter regarding the “disappearance” of Sharmeena Begum and asked them to deliver it to their parents.
Knights said: “The letters were not delivered and at no time, it appears, were the families ever informed that Sharmeena had traveled to Syria or that there were any concerns about the caller and her friends.”