British citizenship appeal – the case of Shamima Begum

The case of Shamima Begum is again in the news. To many her name is notorious as the archetypal face of an ISIS bride and all they represent. To others, she is a twenty-year-old woman living in appalling conditions in a Syrian camp coping with the loss of her three children without the support of friends and family. Shamima Begum is in the news again as she has lost the first stage of her immigration appeal against the home secretary’s decision to revoke her British citizenship. In this blog we look at British Citizenship and Immigration appeals.

British Citizenship solicitors

If you have been refused British Citizenship or are facing an application to have your British Citizenship revoked then the British citizenship solicitors at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call the friendly and expert British Citizenship team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

The removal of British Citizenship

Most people assumed, until they read about the case of Shamima Begum, that if you are a British citizen, then your British citizenship isn’t something that you can lose because your citizenship is an integral part of who you are.

However, the case of Shamima Begum, shows just how easy it can be to lose your British Citizenship and how hard it can be to challenge a Home Office decision to revoke your British Citizenship.

The case of Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum left London as a British schoolgirl, in the company of two school friends. Five years later, and a world away from her childhood years growing up in east London, she is stuck in a Syrian camp arguing that she should be allowed to return to the UK to face the consequences of her teenage actions. However, to achieve a return to her UK based friends and family she needs the reinstatement of her British Citizenship.

After Shamima Begum gave a now notorious press interview, the then home secretary Savid Javid, decided to revoke Shamima Begum’s British Citizenship. It has taken nearly a year for Shamima Begum’s immigration appeal against the decision to revoke her British nationality to come to court and she has lost the first stage of her appeal. Her Immigration solicitor says the fight goes on.

How can you lose your British Citizenship?

Whilst most people understand that the Home Office will rightly thoroughly assess all British naturalisation applications and reject those that don’t meet the British Citizenship eligibility criteria, it is harder to understand how someone who was born and brought up in the UK can lose their British Citizenship.

Immigration solicitors say that you can lose your British Citizenship if:

• The loss of British Citizenship is conducive to the public good and the loss of British nationality does not make you stateless (without a nationality)

• You secured your British nationality through registration or naturalisation and the home secretary is satisfied that your British Citizenship was obtained by fraud, false representation or the concealment of a material fact. In this scenario, the home secretary can deprive you of British Citizenship even if the loss of British nationality will leave you stateless

• You made a successful British naturalisation application but the home secretary thinks revocation of your British Citizenship is conducive to the public good because you are thought to have conducted yourself in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the UK and the home secretary has reasonable grounds to believe that you could become a national of another country under its nationality laws.

In the case of Shamima Begum, the home secretary revoked the then teenager’s British Citizenship on the basis that:

• The loss of her British citizenship is conducive to the public good and

• The loss of Shamima Begum’s British nationality will not make her stateless as she can claim Bangladeshi nationality.

What does loss of British Citizenship mean to Shamima Begum?

Shamima Begum is fighting in the UK court for the reinstatement of her British Citizenship because without it she cannot enter the UK without first securing a visa or leave to remain in the UK. The prospects of her successfully making a visa application to the Home Office would be remote.

If Shamima Begum’s British Citizenship isn’t reinstated through her next immigration appeal or appeals then she will face the future as a Bangladeshi citizen, a country that she has reportedly never visited but has citizenship of through accident of birth and Bangladeshi nationality laws.

Could I lose my British nationality?

You may be questioning whether a politician has the power to deprive you of your British nationality. You can only lose your British nationality if:

• You have dual nationality or

• You can obtain citizenship from another country, for example, citizenship by descent or because of ancestry by virtue of immigrant parents

• You have behaved in a way that your conduct is considered to be seriously prejudicial to national interests and the home secretary believes that stripping you of your British Citizenship means you could acquire another nationality, to avoid statelessness.

When it comes to arguments and immigration appeals on the issue of statelessness it is best to get expert legal advice on your Immigration appeal options from London immigration solicitors as well as specialist solicitors in the country where their nationality laws are under consideration.

Statelessness

Shamima Begum appealed against the revocation of her British Citizenship on the basis that the home secretary, by removing her British nationality, had made her stateless as she didn’t have an alternative state or citizenship.

The judgment of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Shamima Begum v Secretary of State for the Home Department (SC/163/2019) is that the home secretary didn’t improperly deprive her of her British Citizenship whilst acknowledging that conditions in the refugee camp amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. However, the tribunal ruled Shamima Begum’s human rights were not protected under UK law.

The tribunal decided that the home secretary’s decision to revoke Shamima Begum’s British Citizenship didn’t make her stateless as when she was deprived of her British Citizenship she was able to claim Bangladeshi citizenship by descent and the Bangladeshi government could not deny her right of citizenship .

Furthermore, the tribunal ruled that Shamima Begum is not entitled to the protection of human rights legislation as she is in Syria. Her Immigration solicitors argue that is purely because the home secretary has deprived her of British Citizenship, thus preventing Shamima Begum from returning to the UK, where she could claim the protection of human rights legislation as part of her British Citizenship appeal.

To some, the decision may seem perverse because:

• Shamima Begum was born and brought up in the UK

• She has never visited Bangladesh and can only claim Bangladeshi nationality by descent, through her parents

• She has never taken any positive step to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship

• Had Shamima Begum not had parents of Bangladeshi heritage, the home secretary would not have been able to deprive her of British Citizenship because she would have been stateless. Lawyers argue that it isn’t right that Shamima Begum can be denied British Citizenship whilst another person who also journeyed to join ISIS can't have their British Citizenship revoked through accident of birth and because they were not born into an immigrant family.

What is important to note is that in making its decision the tribunal didn’t look into Shamima Begum’s activities after she left the UK or make findings. Instead the decision was based on its interpretation of Bangladeshi nationality law. The tribunal also acknowledged that Shamima Begum could not participate in an effective immigration appeal whilst in a Syrian camp, but ruled that it did not follow that her appeal should succeed. Shamima Begum’s lawyers are appealing the decision.

Immigration solicitors are quick to say that Shamima Begum is not the only young person who has had British citizenship revoked though she is certainly one of the most high profile and controversial. In future years, with the benefit of the passage of time, will we look back and acknowledge that whatever Shamima Begum did or didn’t do in Syria, that it isn’t justifiable to treat her any differently to any other British girl of non-immigrant parentage who ran away to join ISIS at age fifteen, whatever the political fallout of permitting Shamima Begum, and others like her, to return to the UK.

British Citizenship solicitors

For advice on challenging loss of British citizenship or for information on British citizenship and naturalisation applications and refusals or any other aspect of personal or business immigration law call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

OTS Solicitors specialise in British Citizenship and Immigration law. OTS Solicitors are recommended for Immigration law in the two leading legal directories of solicitors, the Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession. OTS Solicitors have Law Society accredited solicitors status as trusted specialists in Immigration law.

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