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 Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department 4:41 pm, 11th March 2019

First of all, the one thing I do concur with the right hon. Lady about is that the death of any child is a tragedy, wherever it takes place in the world. It is not something that anyone—any Member of this House—would want to see.

The Government are committed to protecting British citizens, but it is very different when it comes to a war zone where there is no consular presence. That is a fact not just under this Government; it has been a fact under successive Governments and it is true for many other European countries. For the same reasons that we do not have a consular presence, they do not have a consular presence. Whichever British citizen in that war zone in Syria the right hon. Lady might be referring to, whether a child or an adult, if there is no consular presence there is no way for British authorities—as much as someone might want to, especially in the case of a child—to provide any type of assistance.

The right hon. Lady is trying to make this issue about British citizenship. It is not about British citizenship. One confirmation I can give to one question she asked is that it is the case that if a child is born to someone who is a British citizen at the time the child is born, that child is a British citizen, even if the parent’s citizenship is subsequently removed. This is not about citizenship; it is about the ability of the British state to help. For the British state to send officials, whether Foreign Office officials or others, into Syria in a war zone would risk the safety of those officials. That is why the Foreign Office has been very clear, ever since 2011, that no British citizen should travel to Syria in any circumstances, because it is incredibly dangerous. That is the view taken on Syria by almost every other liberal democracy, even when it comes to children from their own countries and their own citizens.

The right hon. Lady suggested, on citizenship deprivations, that the Government are somehow making decisions that are making people stateless. She rightly stated that that would be illegal under international law. That means that no such decision can be made, whether by this Home Secretary, my predecessors, or previous Labour Home Secretaries. Under international law, no decision can be made unless the Home Secretary is satisfied, based on expert advice, that that individual will not be left stateless.

The death of any British child, even one born to a foreign terrorist fighter, is of course a tragedy, but the only person responsible for the death of that child is the foreign terrorist fighter.