Shamima Begum, who left Britain as a schoolgirl to join Islamic State (IS) in Syria, was suspected of child trafficking and sexual exploitation, a court has heard .
Lawyers for the 23-year-old woman began a new appeal on Monday against the withdrawal of her British nationality during a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac).
They said she was lured to Syria in 2015 when she left east London as a 15-year-old GCSE student, along with two classmates.
Once in Syria, she married an IS fighter and gave birth to three children, all of whom died in infancy. When Begum was discovered in a Syrian camp in 2019, then Home Secretary Sajid Javid prevented her from returning to the UK by revoking her British citizenship.
Samantha Knights KC, representing Begum, said on Monday that the “too hasty” decision made Begum “effectively a lifelong exile.”
She told the hearing: “This case concerns a 15-year-old British child who was persuaded, influenced and affected along with her friends by a determined and effective will. [IS] propaganda machine. »
Begum’s lawyers said in written submissions that the Home Office revoked her citizenship “without seeking to investigate and determine, let alone consider, whether she was a trafficked child.”
They also argued that there was overwhelming evidence that Begum had been “recruited, transported, transferred, harbored and received in Syria for the purpose of sexual exploitation”.
Begum also challenges the withdrawal of her citizenship on the grounds that it made her “de facto stateless” and that the decision was predetermined.
Lawyers representing the Home Office said Begum’s case was about national security rather than trafficking.
James Eadie KC, representing the government, said in written arguments that Begum aligned himself with IS and remained in Syria for four years until 2019.
Eadie said Begum left ISIS territory “only when the caliphate collapsed”, adding: “Even at this stage, the evidence shows that she left only for safety and not because of a real disengagement from the group”.
He added: “When she appeared and gave multiple press interviews shortly before the Secretary of State decided to strip her of her citizenship, she expressed no remorse and said she didn’t regret joining [IS]grateful that she was aware of the nature of the group when traveling.
Last February, the Supreme Court upheld Javid’s decision to revoke Begum’s citizenship.
The hearing at the center of Field House court, which is expected to last five days, is continuing.
Speaking ahead of the hearing, UK Immigration Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News it was a “fundamental principle” that “when people do things that undermine that interests of the UK, it is right that the Home Secretary should have the power to withdraw their passports.
Human rights group Reprieve says up to 25 British families, including 36 children, are still in camps in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria, where suspected relatives of IS fighters are being held .
A book published earlier this year by journalist Richard Kerbaj alleged that Begum and his friends were taken to Syria by a Syrian who leaked information to Canadian security services.
Mohammed al-Rashed was allegedly in charge of the Turkish part of an extensive IS smuggling network.
In a statement, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: “Most British women in northeast Syria have been groomed, coerced or tricked by [IS], which operated as a sophisticated drug gang. British women, many of whom were young girls at the time, were held against their will and subjected to sexual and other forms of exploitation.
“The UK government has been found to have unlawfully stripped UK nationals of their citizenship, rendered UK children stateless and created a situation where families risk being torn apart because they no longer have the right to stay in the same country as each other.
“Shamima Begum was groomed online as a child and taken to Syria by a Canadian intelligence spy. She should be protected as a trafficked British teenager would be in any other context.