On 20 February 2019, it was confirmed that 19-year-old Shamima Begum has been stripped of her British citizenship.
This announcement followed days of speculation as to whether she could be stripped of her nationality or whether she would be allowed to return to the UK and potentially be prosecuted.
Ms Begum travelled to join IS in 2015 when she was 15 years old. Last week she was found in a Syrian refugee camp, heavily pregnant, asking to come back to the UK. Over the weekend she gave birth to her son.
How can someone be deprived of their citizenship?
Under very specific circumstances, the Nationality Act 1981 allows a person to be deprived of their citizenship, if the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) deems that to do so would be “conducive to the public good”. This is limited to cases where the individual in question has another nationality, as it is illegal under international law to deprive someone of their citizenship if that would result in them becoming stateless.
How was Shamima Begum deprived of her citizenship?
It was initially thought that Ms Begum was only a British citizen and therefore could not be deprived of her nationality. However, it was established that her mother is a Bangladeshi national. Under Bangladeshi law, a person born to Bangladeshi parents is automatically a Bangladeshi citizen. As Ms Begum therefore had another nationality the Home Office were able to deprive Ms Begum of her British nationality.
Where nationals by descent are born and live abroad, under Bangladeshi law, applicants must apply before they are 21 to retain their nationality. As Ms Begum is under 21, the Home Office have determined that her nationality is still intact. As such, the SSHD has been able to strip her of her British citizenship.
What happens now?
The SSHD has indicated that her son could still be British as “Children should not suffer. So if a parent does lose their British citizenship, it down not affect the rights of their children”.
It is possible that Ms Begum will appeal the SSHD’s decision, although any hearings would most likely be held in a SIAC hearing, which means that a proportion of the hearing will be held in closed session.
The Bangladeshi authorities are also asserting that Ms Begum is not a Bangladeshi national. If this is true, the Home Office may have a fight on their hands to prove that they did not make Ms Begum stateless.
If you require any information or advice in respect of citizenship or statelessness matters, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.