Home / News / Shamima Begum's lawyers tell immigration hearing there is 'overwhelming evidence' she was the victim of trafficking when she left Britain to join ISIS and claim she is 'unsafe' in Syria camp

Shamima Begum's lawyers tell immigration hearing there is 'overwhelming evidence' she was the victim of trafficking when she left Britain to join ISIS and claim she is 'unsafe' in Syria camp

Posted on Jun 18, 2021

Jihadi bride Shamima Begum was a victim of trafficking when she left the UK to join ISIS with her teenage friends and should return to Britain because she is 'unsafe' in a Syrian refugee camp, her lawyers claimed today.  

Ms Begum was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group in February 2015 and marry jihadis.

Ms Begum, now 21, is challenging the Home Office's decision to remove her British citizenship and has asked a specialist tribunal to consider whether she was a victim of trafficking when she travelled to Syria.

The Home Office says she is a threat to national security and should not be allowed to return to the UK or be a British citizen, claiming she is not stateless because her parents are from Bangladesh.

Begum's lawyers told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) at a hearing on Friday that the Home Office had a legal duty to investigate whether she was a victim of trafficking when her citizenship was revoked.

Shamima Begum, pictured this week, a former East London schoolgirl left Britain to join Islamic State when she was 15 in 2015 is appealing the Home Office's decision to revoke her British citizenship

Begum now looks very different from her previous image as a jihadi bride in a hijab and head scarf.  Pictured holding her baby in the Al Hawl camp, where the child died

Begum was 15 when she ran away with two other schoolgirls - Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15 - (all pictured at Gatwick airport) to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi in 2015

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Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019 having married a Dutch jihadi and had three children, all of whom died.  

Samantha Knights QC said that 'the counter-terrorism unit had suspicions of coercion and control' at the time Ms Begum left the UK, which she argued 'gives rise to the need to investigate the issue of trafficking'.

In written submissions, Ms Begum's legal team said the Home Office failed to consider whether she was 'a child trafficked to, and remaining in, Syria for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced marriage'.

Ms Begum also wants to challenge the removal of her British citizenship on the grounds that it made her 'de facto stateless' and that the decision was procedurally unfair.

Ms Knights told the court that Ms Begum is currently held in the al-Roj camp in northern Syria, which is run by the Syrian Democrat Forces (SDF), where conditions are 'dire'.

'Ms Begum ... is in a fundamentally unsafe environment in a camp run by the SDF.

'Physical violence is common and psychological trauma is endemic,' Ms Knights said.

She added that Ms Begum was 'living in a situation of serious and present danger' and asked SIAC to consider her proposed new grounds of appeal in November.

David Blundell QC, representing the Home Office, said: 'Ms Begum should not be permitted to amend her grounds again'. He argued in written submissions: 'It is significant that the allegation is not that Ms Begum was trafficked, but rather that she 'may have been' trafficked.

'Ms Begum herself has never stated that she has been trafficked, despite having given numerous media interviews and provided instructions to her solicitors on a number of matters.

'The absence of a claim that she has in fact been trafficked means this ground proceeds on an uncertain factual basis.

'It is entirely speculative.'

The Home Office also argues that Ms Begum's case should be put on hold until a separate case before SIAC, which is due to be heard next March, has concluded.

At Friday's hearing, SIAC also considered the cases of three women who have all had their British citizenship revoked on the grounds of national security.

The three women, known only as C8, C10 and D4, are currently held in 'appalling conditions' at the al-Roj camp where 'at least two British nationals have died', the court heard.

Their barrister Julianne Kerr Morrison said C8 has two 'very young' children with her in the camp, while C10 has 'four young children with her, two of those have ongoing health issues'.

Ms Morrison added that D4 is 'seriously unwell' and has also been suffering from coronavirus.

The hearing before Mr Justice Jay is expected to conclude on Friday and it is not yet known if he will give a ruling today or at a later date.

Wearing a leather Nike baseball cap and skinny jeans, jihadi bride Shamima Begum has insisted this week that she does not need to be rehabilitated. In fact she would 'love' to help rehabilitate others.

The 21-year-old former East London schoolgirl was speaking during an interview at al-Roj prison camp in Syria, again showing off her slick new western image seen in other recent encounters with the media.

With fingernails painted red as she held a fashionable clutch bag, she now looks very different from her previous image as a jihadi bride in hijab and head scarf.

Shamima Begum, 21, has insisted she does not need to be rehabilitated during an interview at al-Roj prison camp in Syria

The 21-year-old (pictured with journalist Andrew Drury) remains in the camp stripped of her UK citizenship

Begum, who left Britain to join Islamic State when she was 15 in 2015, remains in the camp stripped of her UK citizenship.

In her latest interview there, she told journalist Andrew Drury: 'I don't think I was a terrorist. I think I was just a dumb kid who made one mistake.

'I personally don't think that I need to be rehabilitated, but I would want to help other people be rehabilitated. I would love to help.'

Explaining why she had stopped wearing her traditional Islamic dress, she said: 'I wear these clothes, and I don't wear a hijab, because it makes me happy. And anything in this camp that makes me happy is like a lifesaver.'

She added that she liked rapper Kanye West's music, was following news of his divorce from reality TV star Kim Kardashian and watched re-runs of Friends in the camp.

After running away from her home in Bethnal Green with two other schoolgirls to go to Syria, Begum married a Dutch jihadi. 

She had three children who all died of disease or malnutrition before she arrived at al-Roj. Her husband is thought to be in a Kurdish-run prison in Syria.

As recently as 2019, Begum refused to condemn the Manchester arena bombing in which 22 were murdered. 

And in another interview she said that seeing her first severed head in Syria 'didn't faze me at all'.

But Mr Drury, interviewing her for a film called Danger Zone, said meeting her had changed his mind about her being a terrorist and that she should be allowed to return to the UK and serve time for her crimes.

But Mr Drury, interviewing her for a film called Danger Zone, said meeting her had changed his mind about her being a terrorist and that she should be allowed to return to the UK and serve time for her crimes. 

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled on national security grounds that she cannot return to Britain to appeal against the removal of her citizenship in 2019.

At the end of the interview, Mr Drury, a married father-of-four, shared an embrace with Begum after she asked him for a hug.

Shamima Begum (pictured) claimed she joined the Islamic State because she didn't want to be the 'friend that was left behind' in a documentary about her life in a Syrian refugee camp

'We were about to say goodbye and I didn't know the protocol because bear in mind she is there as a terrorist,' he said. 'I went to shake her hand and she started to cry and said to me, 'Can I have a hug?'

He added: 'This girl is a vulnerable 21-year-old who did something unbelievably stupid. It was a childish mistake from a 15-year-old.'

Asked what she would say to those in the UK who do not want her to return, Begum said: 'Can I come home please, pretty please?'

 

Shamima Begum claims she only left UK to join ISIS in Syria because 'she didn't want to be left behind' and says she only supported the fanatics because she was 'naive'

By Kate Dennett for MailOnline 

Shamima Begum has claimed she only left the UK to join ISIS in Syria because she 'didn't want to be left behind' as her other friends decided to travel.  

The former Isis child bride, 21, said she joined her Bethnal Green classmates, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana, in fleeing the UK because she was 'young and naive' and wanted to help people in war-torn Syria.

Ms Begym, who left the UK aged 15 in 2015, claimed in an emotional interview she joined the Islamic State because she didn't want to be the 'friend that was left behind' in a documentary about her life in a Syrian refugee camp.

Ms Begum, from Bethnal Green in East London, said she and her friends were recruited online by Isis supporters to be a 'part of something', adding that recruiters preyed on the guilt they felt at seeing Muslims suffer in the Syrian conflict

Shamima Begum (pictured) claimed in an interview she joined the Islamic State because she didn't want to be the 'friend that was left behind' 

Speaking on the documentary The Return: Life After Isis, Ms Begum revealed how she made the decision to travel to Syria. She said: 'I knew it was a big decision, but I just felt compelled to do it quickly. 

'I didn't want to be the friend that was left behind.'

In the documentary she cried when talking about losing her three children during the Syrian war and says that she wanted to kill herself because of the grief.  

Speaking about the death of her daughter, Begum said: 'When she died it was so hard because I just felt so alone and I felt like my entire world was falling apart in front of me and I couldn't do anything. 

'When she [her daughter] died at that moment I just wanted to kill myself. I felt like I couldn't even get up to run any more when there were bombings.

'The only thing keeping me alive was my baby I was pregnant with. I felt like I had to do him right by getting him out and giving him a normal life.'

She said she did not understand why her babies died, adding: 'I felt like it was my fault for not getting them out sooner even though I didn't know why they died.'

She previously told reporters her children died of malnutrition and disease.

Some of the other women in the camp were pictured with Begum inside the camp

Her third child, a boy, died in March 2019 just a month after he was born, because of pneumonia.   

Ms Begum is currently being held at the al-Roj camp in northern Syria, after she had her British citizenship stripped by the Government, which in turn sparked an ongoing legal battle.

Around 800 families live in the al-Roj camp, close to the borders with Turkey and Iran and much-preferred to the infamous al-Hol centre 80 miles away and home to 15,000 families.

In the 90-minute film, Ms Begum accused the Government of fabricating stories about her commitment to radical Islam when her citizenship was removed, claiming she was too scared to condemn Isis out of fears for her safety in the camp. 

She also revealed the heartbreak of having to tell the parents of her friends Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana that the two girls had been killed in the city of Baghuz.  

 Ms Begum, from East London, said Isis recruiters preyed on the guilt they felt at seeing Muslims suffer in the Syrian conflict. Pictured: Camp Roj in Syria where Ms Begum is held

Begum was 15 when she ran away with two other schoolgirls - Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15 - (all pictured at Gatwick airport) to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi in 2015

Ms Begum is currently being held at the al-Roj camp in northern Syria (pictured), after she had her British citizenship stripped by the Government, which sparked an ongoing legal battle 

Tearfully recounting her story, she said: 'Now I feel like I have no friends anymore, they were everything I had.' 

It comes after Ms Begum revealed the wanted to kill herself when her three children died in Syria and begged Britain to give her a 'second chance'. 

Begum said that she hoped British people would have an 'open mind about why I left and who I am now as a person' and urged the government to allow her to return home. 

Begum says people wrongly 'feel like I'm responsible' for the crimes of ISIS but she now realises she was 'naive' and rejects its beliefs.

She said: 'They just think I knew about these crimes and I supported these crimes but that's not true.

'I would never support something like this, like the things they did.'

When Begum was tracked down for the first time in 2019 after fleeing the UK, she was pregnant, widowed and had lost two children.

Her third died shortly after birth and in the film Begum cried as she spoke about losing all of her babies.

She is one of several British women stranded in Roj camp after having their citizenship revoked. 

Begum was 15 when she ran away with two other schoolgirls to Syria to marry a Dutch jihadi in 2015.

In February, the UK's Supreme Court ruled that she cannot return to the UK to pursue an appeal against the removal of her British citizenship.