Shamima Begum was 15 when she left the UK to join an ISIS fighter. After four years she escaped, and is now in a camp for refugees in Syria, where she delivered a baby just days ago. She showed no regrets about the past, but expressed a desire to return to the UK with her baby. The government, however, has revoked her British citizenship, launching a series of responses from a wide range of actors.
The government said it acted to protect UK citizens and ensure safety, but the opposition Labour party criticized the decision. Amal de Chickera, co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, asked if this move really improves the security of the UK and its citizens, or if it will serve to fuel radicalization. Devyani Prabhat from the University of Bristol, a specialist on citizenship, emphasized that Begum’s child has the right to British citizenship, but due to the government’s actions, cannot enter the UK or claim the rights other citizens enjoy.
“If they cannot access their citizenship rights because of cancellation of their parents’ citizenship, their welfare needs to be assessed distinctly from that of the adults” Devyani Prabhat said.
UNICEF joined the voices of critics of the government’s acts, underlining that the children of foreign fighters have rights to citizenship, “the right to a name, an identity and a nationality” as stipulated by international law, while governments have the responsibility to prevent children from ending up stateless.