Women who ‘travelled to Syria to join IS’ fighting removal of UK citizenship

Two British-born women who allegedly travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group are mounting an appeal against the Government’s decision to revoke their citizenship.

The women – who are of British-Bangladeshi heritage, and known as C3 and C4 for legal reasons – are being held with their young children in “appalling conditions” in refugee camps in Syria.

C3 is in the al-Roj camp with her children, the youngest of whom is just two, while C4 is being held with her children in the al-Hawl camp, where conditions have been described by the International Committee of the Red Cross as “apocalyptic”.

Both women had their British citizenship revoked last November on the grounds of national security.

They are challenging that decision at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), a specialist tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone’s British citizenship on national security grounds.

Their lawyers say neither woman is entitled to Bangladeshi citizenship and the decision to remove their British citizenship was therefore unlawful as it rendered them “stateless”.

The court also heard that Shamima Begum – one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join IS in February 2015 – is set to have the latest round of her legal challenge to the decision to revoke her British citizenship heard by the High Court in June.

At a preliminary hearing conducted remotely on Monday, Dan Squires QC, representing C3 and C4, said the conditions in which they were being held were “horrendous”, with C4 held in “a camp for 5,000 people which is housing 74,000”.

He said the effect of the decision to deprive them of their British citizenship meant that, even if they were able to leave the camp with their children, they have “no country to return to”, leaving them both “essentially trapped”.

He said this meant both women faced “the awful choice of either remaining with their children or… sending their children back to England, not knowing when, or indeed whether, they will see them again”.

Mr Squires said their appeals needed to be determined as quickly as possible as, the longer the case took, “the greater the risk of serious and irremediable harm” to the women and their children.

In addition to challenging the decision on the grounds it made them stateless, C3 and C4 argue that Home Secretary Priti Patel failed to give due regard to the “equality implications” of how the decisions “might impact on Muslim communities”.

Mr Squires said in written submissions that the Home Office should disclose whether Ms Patel considered “whether her approach to deprivation has a disproportionate impact on Muslims and/or those of south Asian ethnic origin” and whether she considered “the impact on good relations in the UK between members of those groups and others caused by measures that are (or are perceived to be) used disproportionately on Muslims and/or those of south Asian ethnic origin”.

Mr Squires further argued on behalf of C4 that she was “the victim of trafficking when she travelled to Syria”, which he said also rendered the decision to deprive her of her British citizenship unlawful.

Lisa Giovannetti QC, for the Home Office, agreed that the issues of statelessness should be dealt with as a preliminary issue before a full trial of C3 and C4’s case, but argued that it would not be appropriate for the other issues to be ruled on before a full hearing.

Mrs Justice Steyn ruled that a further preliminary hearing to determine whether the decision to deprive C3 and C4 of their British citizenship rendered them stateless should be heard in November.

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