Shamima Begum was my constituent. She fled to Syria in 2015, along with two other girls, after being groomed and radicalised—mainly online—and influenced by a former classmate who had left earlier. As the Home Secretary will know, the police were working in enormously difficult circumstances, but one of the errors made was their sending letters about interviewing the girls to the girls themselves instead of their parents. The police subsequently apologised for the error. The girls were minors then, and they had not committed crimes at the time when Shamima Begum fled.
I recognise, especially given what she has said in the media, the abhorrent views that Shamima Begum now holds and the fact that she has been radicalised, but, that said, no child should face punishment for the sins of its parent, and in this case that child is the child that died. I disagree with the Home Secretary’s decision to rescind her citizenship, because doing so makes her stateless, given that the Bangladeshi authorities do not recognise that she has citizenship of their country.
That said, national security and the protection of our communities are paramount. I want to flag up some of the issues that my constituents have raised, because we need to think deeply about how we deal with them. My constituents are concerned about the fact that the case has gained the oxygen of publicity, and about the abhorrent views that have been allowed to be peddled in our media day in, day out. My constituents are worried about the repercussions and the possibility of a backlash from far-right groups. I have already had cases of innocent people, who happen to be Muslim, being attacked. Those are the issues that we have to reckon with and deal with.
My constituents are concerned to ensure that if people are returned—as they should be, given the debates about nationality—they should be prosecuted and face the full force of the law. If those people are returned into their communities, we face the massive challenge of dealing with backlashes in those returnees’ localities. Our constituents become vulnerable to attacks from the far right and other religious extremists, and they may face unhelpful media attention while they are trying to get on with their lives.
I ask the Home Secretary this, once again: will he please work with the Foreign Secretary and our allies in other countries to come up with a long-term solution? We must address the problem of people who go to conflict regions, to ensure that they do not find clandestine ways to return to our country, create more insecurity and pose a greater danger to people’s lives.