Shamima Begum citizenship: Lawyers say she should have been treated as child trafficking victim

Shamima Begum was influenced by a “determined and effective Isis propaganda machine” and should have been treated as a child trafficking victim, a court has heard.

Ms Begum, now 23, was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group in February 2015.

Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

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Ms Begum is challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship, with her lawyers arguing the Home Office had a legal duty to investigate whether Ms Begum was a victim of trafficking when her citizenship was revoked.

Shamima Begum. Picture: BBC
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At the start of a five-day hearing at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) on Monday, Samantha Knights KC, for Ms Begum, said: “This case concerns a British child aged 15 who was persuaded, influenced and affected with her friends by a determined and effective Isis propaganda machine.”

In written submissions, Ms Knights said there was “overwhelming” evidence that Ms Begum had been “recruited, transported, transferred, harboured and received in Syria for the purposes of ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘marriage’ to an adult male”.

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“She was following a well-known pattern by which Isis cynically recruited and groomed female children, as young as 14, so that they could be offered as ‘wives’ to adult men,” the barrister said.

Her lawyers said the Home Office deprived Ms Begum of her citizenship “without seeking to investigate and determine, still less consider, whether she was a child victim of trafficking, and whether there were failures by public authorities in the UK to prevent her being trafficked”.

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Ms Knights continued: “What evidence is available shows that rather than viewing the appellant as a victim, a child that was manipulated and exploited, the home secretary proceeded on the basis that she acted ‘voluntarily’ in travelling to Syria and aligning with Isis.” Sir James Eadie KC, for the Home Office, said in written submissions the Security Services “continue to assess that Ms Begum poses a risk to national security”.

“This is a case about national security,” he said, later adding: “This is not a case about trafficking.”

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