IS teenager’s family consider legal action

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Media captionShamima Begum: ‘The poster girl thing was not my choice’

Shamima Begum – the teenager who fled London to join Islamic State group in Syria – has said being stripped of her British citizenship is “unjust”.

Ms Begum, 19, told ITV news that she found the Home Office’s decision “heart-breaking” – but she may try for citizenship via her Dutch husband.

Her family have said they plan to challenge the government’s decision.

Government sources said it was possible to revoke her UK nationality as she was eligible for citizenship elsewhere.

Her mother is believed to be a Bangladeshi national which means under Bangladesh law Ms Begum would be too, said Lord Carlile, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

However, when asked by the BBC, Ms Begum said she did not have a Bangladeshi passport and had never been to the country.

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Ms Begum was 15 and living in Bethnal Green, London, when she left the UK in 2015

Ms Begum was a schoolgirl when she left Bethnal Green in 2015. She was found in a Syrian refugee camp last week after reportedly leaving Baghuz – IS’s last stronghold.

She gave birth to a son at the weekend and now wants to return home.

A Home Office spokesperson said the department did not comment on individual cases but decisions to remove citizenship were “based on all available evidence and not taken lightly”.

The spokesperson said: “In recent days the home secretary has clearly stated that his priority is the safety and security of Britain and the people who live here.”

Ms Begum: ‘I’m a bit shocked’

ITV News showed Ms Begum a copy of the Home Office’s letter – which had been sent to her mother. Ms Begum said: “I am a bit shocked. It’s a bit upsetting and frustrating. I feel like it’s a bit unjust on me and my son.”

She added: “Another option I might try with my family is my husband is from Holland and he has family in Holland.

“Maybe I can ask for citizenship in Holland. If he gets sent back to prison in Holland I can just wait for him while he is in prison.”

Ms Begum’s husband is a Dutch convert to Islam and is thought to have surrendered to a group of Syrian fighters about two weeks ago.

The lawyer for Ms Begum’s family, Tasnime Akunjee, said they were considering “all legal avenues” to contest the Home Office decision.

Mr Akunjee told the Independent that the Bangladesh government “does not know who she is”. He said: “Our position is that to all practical purposes she has been made stateless.”

What does the law say?

Under the 1981 British Nationality Act, a person can be deprived of their citizenship if the home secretary is satisfied it would be “conducive to the public good” and they would not become stateless as a result.

Ms Begum has the right to challenge the Home Office’s decision either by tribunal or judicial review, said Lord Carlile.

Lord Carlile told BBC Breakfast: “The test will be of reasonableness and proportionality so she would have to establish that the home secretary acted in an entirely disproportionate way in removing her nationality.

“That might be a difficult challenge for her because he appears to have acted within the law if it is indeed the case that she is entitled to Bangladesh nationality.”

He said it was a “complex issue” which “could run for a very long time through the courts”, and Ms Begum could stay where she is “for maybe two years at least”.

Lord Carlile said the nationality of Ms Begum’s baby was “even more complicated”.

As the baby’s father is believed to be Dutch, he may be entitled to Dutch nationality as well as British and “probably Bangladesh nationality”.

A child born to a British parent before they are deprived of their citizenship would still be considered British.

While it would theoretically be possible for the UK to then remove citizenship from the child, officials would need to balance their rights against any potential threat they posed.

Dal Babu, a former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent and friend of Ms Begum’s family, said they were “very surprised” by what seemed to be a “kneejerk reaction” by the Home Office.

Stressing that Ms Begum had never been to Bangladesh, Mr Babu said: “It seems to be a bizarre decision and I’m not entirely sure how that will stand up legally.”

Former Conservative Home Secretary Ken Clarke said turning people away would be a “great boost for jihadism” as the “hundreds of foreign jihadis stuck in camps in northern Syria” would be further radicalised, he said.

Islamic State has lost most of the territory it once controlled, but between 1,000 and 1,500 militants are believed to be left in a 50 sq km (20 sq mile) area near Syria’s border with Iraq.

Mr Javid told MPs earlier this week that more than 100 dual nationals had already lost their UK citizenship after travelling in support of terrorist groups.

Last year, two British men, accused of being members of an IS cell dubbed “The Beatles” were stripped of their citizenship after being captured in Syria.

In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Ms Begum said she never sought to be an IS “poster girl” and now simply wished to raise her child quietly in the UK.

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Met Police

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Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum (l-r) in photos issued by police after they left the UK

Ms Begum left the UK with two school friends, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase in February 2015. Ms Sultana is thought to have died when a house was blown up, and the fate of Ms Abase is unknown.

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