Opinion

Exiling Shamima Begum undermines the British judicial system

By Jack Fifield

Image by Charles D P Miller from Basingstoke, United Kingdom [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently said in an interview with The Times, “If you have supported terrorist organisations abroad I will not hesitate to prevent your return.” This approach is counterproductive and dangerous to the UK’s fight against radicalization and terrorism.

If we do not allow those, such as Shamima Begum, who have left their life in the UK to commit terroristic acts to return to face the full consequences of their actions, we are effectively deciding to pawn off our radicalized citizens to other countries that are ill-equipped to cope with those that have been radicalized, meaning that dangerous terrorists are left to roam the streets to commit further atrocities. In doing so, we are losing any opportunity we may have to deradicalize these people; this undermines our legal system.

With the news that Shamima Begum has given birth, revoking her British citizenship would have the knock-on effect of exposing her child to radicalisation, and the potential for physical and mental harm.

Revoking the citizenship of those who commit heinous acts desolidifies the concept of British citizenship. By not guaranteeing the future citizenship of those who have legally obtained it, we are saying that British citizenship is a fluid concept, with the potential for any British citizen to be subject to exile. This sets a dangerous precedent, that could, in the future, be used by any government-of-the-day to kick out those with whom it does not agree.

Doing so also fails to take in to account any responsibility of the United Kingdom for the prevention of radicalization of its citizens. Shamima Begum was radicalized on UK soil, in a UK school. To revoke her citizenship would be to absolve UK authorities of their responsibility to prevent the radicalization of its citizens, as they can simply revoke their citizenship status in the future, dumping the problem somewhere else.

Another option available to the government is to issue a Temporary Exclusion Order to Begum, preventing her return dependent on conditions imposed. By erecting obstacles to Begum’s return, the UK government runs the risk of exposing her, her child, and innocent people who come in to contact with Begum to further radicalization, and potential harm. Instead, Ms. Begum’s return should be encouraged, so that she can face the full consequences of her actions in accordance with UK law, and to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of her child.

From certain reports, Ms. Begum seems unrepentant for her actions. Whilst many may point to this as a reason to keep her out of the UK, I believe that this simply solidifies how important it is for her to return. By keeping someone with this mindset free in other countries, we are risking more lives and imposing danger on others, creating opportunities for Daesh to have a resurgence in popularity from those displaced.

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