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Sajid Javid defends stripping Shamima Begum of her nationality, saying he would not make someone 'stateless'

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 21/02/2019 Gareth Davies
Shamima Begum reading a letter from the Home Office © PA/ITV News Shamima Begum reading a letter from the Home Office

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has defended his decision to strip the jihadi bride Shamima Begum of her British citizenship, saying he would never leave someone "stateless". 

The 19-year-old from London, who fled to Syria aged 15, wanted to return to the UK with her newborn baby.

But the Home Secretary revoked her British citizenship in a move only permissible under international law if it does not leave the individual stateless.

The Telegraph understands Begum has inherited Bangladeshi dual nationality through her parents, but the country's minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam denied this on Wednesday, saying she was "nothing to do with Bangladesh".

Asked about the situation on ITV's Peston, Mr Javid said: "I'm not aware of any Home Secretary in any party in any previous government that has taken a decision that would leave anyone stateless.

a close up of a device: The Home Office letter Credit: ITV News © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited The Home Office letter Credit: ITV News "I'm not going to talk about an individual, but I can be clear on the point that I would not take a decision and I believe none of my predecessors ever have taken a decision that at the point the decision is taken would leave that individual stateless."

The Home Secretary would not be drawn to comment on Begum's case specifically, but speaking generally, he said: "Let’s say they are in the UK and they radicalise others and groom others, they carry out a terrorist attack themselves or incite others to do that. 

"What about the danger and the risk to the country of that? What about the impact on community cohesion if people come back to the country and use their presence here to try and racialize others? I have to weigh that up too."

Sajid Javid said he would 'never leave anyone stateless' © Getty Sajid Javid said he would 'never leave anyone stateless'

The exact situation surrounding Begum's citizenship remains unclear, and the waters were further muddied on Wednesday night when Mr Alam, Bangladesh's foreign minister, said: "The Government of Bangladesh is deeply concerned that she has been erroneously identified as a holder of dual citizenship shared with Bangladesh alongside her birthplace, the United Kingdom.

"Bangladesh asserts that Shamima Begum is not a Bangladeshi citizen. She is a British citizen by birth and has never applied for dual nationality with Bangladesh.

"It may also be mentioned that she never visited Bangladesh in the past despite her parental lineage. So, there is no question of her being allowed to enter into Bangladesh."

The statement added that Dhaka had only been made aware of the situation by the media, suggesting Mr Javid had not pre-warned Bangladesh of his plans.

Watch: Shamima Begum's child could retrain British citizenship (Independent)

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International law forbids nations from making people stateless by revoking their only citizenship, but The Telegraph understands that the Home Office made the decision to revoke Begum's British citizenship based on Bangladeshi law. 

There, until the age of 21, it is understood the Isil bride automatically retains dual nationality due to the fact her parents are both from the country. 

At the age of 21, a child born to Bangladeshi parents has the right to waive their right to dual nationality, but not before.

The complication lies in how she would be able to get to Bangladesh - where it is understood her father is currently living - and how she proves that she is Shamima Begum. 

The teenager has never visited the country and does not have a Bangladeshi passport. Her old British passport is invalid due to her citizenship being revoked and she has previously said she used her sister's passport to travel to Syria back in 2015. 

One possible option for her would be to travel to Turkey via the notoriously penetrable border with Syria and present herself to the Bangladeshi embassy. 

Shamima Begum has had her British citizenship stripped by the Home Office © Reuters Shamima Begum has had her British citizenship stripped by the Home Office

But officials in Dhaka may well appeal the Home Office's decision to make Begum their responsibility, insisting that she has never even been to the country. 

Asked whether she had been left stateless by Britain, the Begum family's lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said: "It's certainly something we will be adding to the mix in terms of our appeal."

He has said Ms Begum was born in the UK, has never had a Bangladeshi passport and is not a dual citizen.

A Home Office spokesman said Mr Javid's priority was the "safety and security" of the country.

Watch: Shamima Begum shocked by Home Office decision (Evening Standard)

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Decisions to deprive people of citizenship were "based on all available evidence and not taken lightly," the spokesman added.

Ms Begum was one of three schoolgirls to leave Bethnal Green to join the terror cult in 2015 and resurfaced heavily pregnant at a Syrian refugee camp last week.

When shown a copy of the Home Office letter that announced her British citizenship would be stripped, she said it was "a bit unjust on me and my son".

She went on to say she may try for citizenship in the Netherlands, where her husband is from.

Mr Javid suggested the action to prevent Ms Begum returning will have no impact on her baby son's nationality.

While insisting he could not discuss individual cases, he told the Commons: "Children should not suffer.

"So, if a parent does lose their British citizenship, it does not affect the rights of their child."

Ms Begum's situation has sparked intense debate about the UK's responsibilities to those seeking to return from Syria.

The British Nationality Act 1981 provides the Home Secretary with the power to strip people of citizenship if it is "conducive to the public good".

Lord Carlile, former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said Ms Begum could challenge the Home Secretary's decision, and described it as a "complex issue" that could take a while to resolve.

Figures for 2017 show that 104 people were deprived of their British citizenship, up from 14 in the previous year.

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