Guardian News: Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen and there is “no question” of her being allowed into Bangladesh, the country’s ministry of foreign affairs has insisted, despite Britain’s move to strip the teenager of her UK citizenship.
“The government of Bangladesh is deeply concerned that [Begum] has been erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship,” Shahrial Alam, state minister of foreign affairs, said in a statement issued to the Guardian, adding that his government had learned of Britain’s move to cancel her citizenship rights from media reports.
“Bangladesh asserts that Ms Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen. She is a British citizen by birth and never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh… There is no question of her being allowed to enter into Bangladesh.”
The strongly-worded statement is a direct challenge to Sajid Javid, the home secretary, who told MPs earlier on Wednesday that he would not waver in his determination to deprive the 19-year-old, who fled to Syria four years ago to marry an Isis fighter, of her citizenship.
While insisting he could not speak about individual cases, Javid said that those who had stayed with Islamic State in Syria, “not least those who chose to fight or raise families in the so-called caliphate”, had “turned their back on this country”. “I have been resolute that where they pose any threat to this country I will do everything in my power to prevent their return.”
In a measure of the complexities of the case, however, he indicated that the citizenship rights of the her baby son, who was born just days before the government moved to deprive her rights, are unaffected.
Responding to an urgent question on the case in the House of Commons, Javid said: “Children should not suffer, so if a parent loses their British citizenship it does not affect the rights of their child.”
In a letter dated 19 February, the government informed Begum’s family that it had stripped her of her British citizenship. The 19-year-old was one of three schoolgirls who left their home in Bethnal Green, east London, four years ago to marry Isis fighters in Syria.
Begum gave birth at the weekend to a baby boy, whom she has named Jarrah. She has told reporters that her husband, a Dutch man called Yago Riedijk, is being held by Syrian fighters after surrendering as the terrorism group’s territory was reclaimed in recent weeks.
As her son was born before the move to deprive her of her citizenship, the child would be unaffected by the decision, Javid indicated.
Begum, who is living with her son in a refugee camp in northern Syria, is of Bangladeshi heritage but she has said that she does not have a Bangladeshi passport and has never been to the country
It is illegal under international law to deprive someone of their nationality if it do so would leave that person stateless. Javid said that in each case, the government would “absolutely make sure that if we go ahead and take that decision [to remove citizenship] that they will not be left stateless. We of course follow international law.”
Bangladeshi law includes a right of “citizenship by descent” to anyone who is born to a Bangladeshi parent.
Javid said the power to remove citizenship had been used 150 times since 2010, in the cases of people linked to terrorism and serious crimes.
But he was challenged by Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, who said the government had been defeated in two cases where it had attempted to strip people of UK citizenship who were of Bangladeshi heritage.
Of approximately 900 people who had gone to Syria from the UK, 20% were believed to have been killed and about 40% had returned to the UK, the home secretary said. “I assure this house the majority have been assessed to pose no or a low-security status,” he said.
Shown a copy of the letter in the refugee camp by a reporter from ITV News,Begum said the decision to remove her citizenship was “kind of heart-breaking to read” and “hard to swallow”.
“I don’t know what to say,” she said. “I am not that shocked but 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 said she may explore whether she had rights to Dutch citizenship through her husband, which could also potentially have implications for her child.
Her family’s lawyer has said they are “considering all legal avenues” to challenge the decision.