Shamima Begum and Other Cases

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary 4:41 pm, 11th March 2019

When she was 15, Shamima Begum made a very bad decision, and it is arguable that much of the tragedy that has engulfed her since then flows from it. It is also the case that she has recently made some reprehensible statements to the media. However, the Home Secretary will know that the Opposition believe that she and her baby should have been allowed to return home. Now we know that that baby is dead. We believed that she should have been allowed to return home because this schoolgirl, born and brought up in Bethnal Green, was Britain’s responsibility. As it happens, that is also the general view of the President of the United States. Above all, bringing the mother and baby home would have given the baby a chance of life.

Instead, the Home Secretary, in the face of a media outcry, chose to strip Shamima of her citizenship. He knows that many authorities contend that that was done illegally, because she was not a dual national. Article 15 of the United Nations declaration of Human Rights states:

“Everyone has a right to a nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality”.

Does the Home Secretary accept that the child was British? Does he further accept that the British legal system does not hold children responsible for the wrongdoing of their parents? Does he also accept that, despite what Ministers have said about the dangers of sending officials into the refugee camp, aid workers, doctors and journalists go backwards and forwards to and from those camps all the time?

Does the Home Secretary further accept that, by stripping Shamima of her nationality, he made it impossible for her to fulfil her duties as a mother and bring her baby home to a safe place? Will he confirm that, as he said earlier, as well as taking legal advice, he took advice from the police and security services about the desirability or otherwise of bringing Shamima home? Can he explain why he deemed this 19-year-old, with a baby that was not quite three weeks old, more dangerous to Britain than the hundreds of foreign fighters who have already been allowed to return?

We now know that there are other British women in those camps who have been stripped of their nationality by the Home Secretary’s predecessor, Amber Rudd. Can he assure the House that he will work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to see how best those British children’s rights can be protected?

The Home Secretary’s decision in this case has caused widespread concern and alarm. We understand the issue of keeping British people safe, but this was a British baby, who is now dead. No Opposition Member condones—[Interruption.]