The ISIS Brides from Nowhere
The case of Samima Begum, colloquially known in Britain as “the ISIS bride”, has dominated the news and public discourse for two days. Today, UK Government just stepped grossly over the mark of breaching everyone’s human rights.
For those who’ve become apathetic to all the noise around Brexit, and successive scandals, this one is the most concerning of any of the Government’s activities so far. For those who have friends of first generation migrants, that affects pretty much every one of them. Within British society, it creates yet another 2-tier system of British citizen. Confirming that the Windrush scandal is not only continuing, but is actively being expanded. Confirming Windrush was perhaps a test-bed for the future xenophobic relationship the UK will have with its residents.
As the author of this piece, while I somewhat expected it, I didn’t expect to see it with such blatant disregard to international human rights law.
Begum fled to Syria and married a Dutch convert when she was a child of 15. Akin to tragic stories of children running away with their teachers, she was indoctrinated and swooned by the highly polished, radicalising material of ISIS and away from the watching eyes of her parents, she arranged to fly out to Syria with friends.
Begum is only a Brit. She has never been to Bangladesh. The birth country of her parents. The father of Begum’s child, Dutch national Yugo Reidjik, is believed to still be Syria. Samima Begum claims she was a housewife and was indoctrinated and on the weekend of the 16th Feb 2019, she apparently gave birth to her newborn child in the Syrian Refugee Camp she resides in, while her state was being determined. She was sent a letter removing her British citizenship.
The relevant pieces of legislation cut across 4 major acts. In order of Primacy, from greatest to least, they are:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Right (1948) — providing the foundations for stateless citizens right in 1954 and the Reduction of Statelessness Legislation of 1961
- The European Convention on Human Rights (1950)
- The UK’s Human Rights Act 1998
- The British Nationality Act 1981 (which references or repeals various Immigration Acts of ’62, ’67 and ‘71)
The most fundamental is the signatory’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). As signed in 1948 by the United Kingdom and enacted through the European Convention on Human Rights, itself adopted into the UK’s Human Rights Act. Every one of those other 6 acts is founded on this document.
The UDHR was passed to prevent the atrocities of World Ward II from happening again. The declaration learned from then recent history and had the foresight to address, and prevent, all the steps the Nazi’s took to marginalise and exterminate the Jews and other races before and during the war. Its 30 articles form the basis of political participation, right to life and even ensure freedom of expression, which underpins the right to speak that many on the far-right of society hold precious.
Every one of those Human rights are inalienable. As soon as you are born, you possess these rights and they can never legally be taken away from you. By anyone!
With Begum, half of the UDHR has almost been breached in its entirety in this case. Such is the audacity of the act. The most relevant portions of the UDHR that apply to the Begum case are articles 8, 9, 10, 11, 13 and crucially, article 15.
It is illegal for any government to deprive a citizen of their only nationality. You simply can’t do it and remain either legal or democratic. Especially as it is an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and an exiling act, by Article 9.
By Article 15(1) and the denial to her of a fair trial, means that Shamima Begum has a clear, winnable case. Indeed, the government are pretty much guaranteed to lose.
However, for Sajid Javid, himself at risk of being hoisted by his own petard of illegality, this is not about the viability or otherwise of his decision. He has bigger plans on leadership, but also to continue the hostile environment policy of his predecessors that target migrants. Which impacts EU citizens as of March this year.
What about the terrorism?
After a series of defeats in attempts to deprive terrorists with naturalised citizens of their British nationality, which failed on the grounds of statelessness, the UK Parliament passed an amendment to the British Nationalities Act of 1981 to make it possible to revoke the citizenship of naturalised citizens. Those who earned British Nationality by anything other than birth. With the risk that it may render someone stateless. Note the word ‘risk’.
The supreme court case of Secretary of State v Pham 2015 set the first of the case law from the amended statute.
Pham was of Vietnamese origin. He was allegedly involved in Al-Qaida training but no case was brought. In turn meaning he was effectively guilty of a crime without trial. His naturalised citizenship was removed and he was set for deportation, but Vietnam did not recognise him as a citizen of theirs. Sound familiar?
IS bride 'is not Bangladeshi citizen'
Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen and there is "no question" of her being allowed into the country…
The Supreme Court determination of SoS v Pham, a case undertaken under Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary, heard, and accepted a distinction between a de facto stateless person, rendered stateless by the act of revoking citizenship, who possesses some mechanism of retaining another citizenship (in Pham’s case, Vietnamese as it wasn’t surrendered at his birth) and a de jure stateless person. Where the [ex-]citizen does not have any other recourse to any other citizenship. Pham was found to have become a de facto stateless person while not a de jure stateless.
This is actually barely acceptable. The issue of statelessness does not arise, for a few reasons.
- the person was naturalised
- they had not renounced their Vietnamese citizenship
- Vietnam began accepting “second citizenships” in 2008. 7 years before the case.
Pham v Begum — A Completely Different Case
The SoS v Pham is not the same as Begum. Shemima Begum has nothing but a British Citizenship, by Birth! This makes it fundamentally different on a number of grounds.
- There is no naturalised citizenship to revoke — you are revoking a birth citizenship
- Bangladesh had never recognised Begum as a citizen of theirs
- Bangladesh introduced a number of restrictions in 2016 which mean that even dual citizens, are second class
Begum has never been, is not and never will be a Bangladeshi citizen.
This then makes the UK case much more straightforward. As Begum is clearly both a de fact and de jure stateless person. A complete, unequivocal and incontrovertible truth. Thus, an equally incontrovertible breach of human rights.
Begum’s case presents a clear breach. However, it requires legal support and cannot be allowed to stand. Her case has to be taken to the supreme court as otherwise this sets a dangerous precedent for the removal of anyone’s citizenship at will. By the time the court case has completed, many many more people will have been impacted. These case can take anywhere from months to a decade to resolve. In the interim, many more arbitrary denaturalisations and exiling acts may well occur.
Trust me, having dealt with the UK Government long enough, they will do this to absolutely anybody if they know they can get away with it! Go on holiday, can’t get back? It’s the UK’s version of the Trump’s Muslim ban by any other name.
It also raises the question of what happens to the 20% of terrorist offences committed by far-right extremists, if citizenship can be revoked. Will they have their citizenship revoked? Where will they be deported to?
The UK law is subservient to the UDHR. The spirit of enactment by Javid is not in keeping with the spirit under which the declaration was signed. The UK is clearly well past the point of democratic legitimacy.
Won’t Somebody think of the Children
Meanwhile Sajid Javid, in his leadership ambitions, attempts to claim the UK Government have a case, yet claims Begum’s child should receive UK Citizenship some time in the future. Sadly, this is not the case and in truth, he doesn’t know.
The British Nationality Act 1981, even with amendments, does not restore the child’s citizenship.
Depending on when the child was born and crucially, the content of the letter, Begum’s newborn will not receive British citizenship. Another direct breach of human rights. The child was not born in the UK, the father is not a British citizen and Begum may not have been a British Citizen at the time of the child’s birth. Rendering the child stateless too. Until any form of refugee application is processed. Begum’s child actually has a much stronger case of becoming a Dutch national.
My personal view is that there was greater legality in Begum’s death in Syria, as collateral on the field. Instead of dealing with it there, what the UK Government have done is set a potential legal precedence that affects every single one of my friends and every one of your friends, who have only British citizenship, but were born to parents of another nationality. EU citizens included after 29th March 2019.
Note, this even includes Sajid Javid. This applies to every EU citizen, including and especially Irish and Windrush citizens. Irish friends of mine, or those born to Irish parents, will also be impacted by this. Indeed, I am only a Brit. Born and bred here, but because of naturalised parents, British citizens of only a few decades, arbitrary assignment of statelessness is now a risk I and my extended family have to contend with.
All the cases referred to here, underpin every one of the democratic rights Brits or all colours, hold; every right won and every law passed to protect them. Remove it and we pull the rug from under all those and the concept of democracy as a whole.
I rarely post extensive personal information when writing a note. But for me, my friends and indeed, my extended family. I am now in the situation the confused Martin Niemöller so famously wrote about “First they came…”
and now it’s my turn.