Shamima and Jarrah Begum - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:10 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 5:10 pm, 11th March 2019

My Lords, with the leave of the House I will repeat a response to an Urgent Question given by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the other place:

“Mr Speaker, we estimate that over 900 people left the UK to engage with the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Many have been killed fighting; some remain there; some have returned; others could still come back. Some irresponsibly took young British children with them. Some had children whilst there, as part of their mission to expand the so-called caliphate.

We have made it very clear since 2011 that no British citizen should travel to Syria. Those who have stayed until the bitter end include some of the most devoted supporters of Daesh. One of the ways we can deal with the threat they pose to the UK is to remove British citizenship from those holding another nationality. Since 2010, this power has been applied to around 150 people of a range of nationalities. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the details of an individual case—although, clearly, the loss of any child is a tragedy. But if I may, I will address some of the issues raised.

First, these decisions are made very carefully. Where citizenship deprivation is being considered due to national security concerns, the decision is based on advice and intelligence from the security services, counterterrorism police and specialist security and legal officials in the Home Office. When people dedicated to keeping our country safe give an informed recommendation, any Home Secretary should listen very carefully.

Secondly, we are unable to provide support to British nationals within Syria, as the UK Government do not have a consular presence there. Thirdly, the status of a child does not change if their parents’ British citizenship is subsequently revoked.

There are no easy answers. I must think also about future conflicts and the precedents we set. I do not want any more children brought into a war zone because their parents think they will automatically be bailed out, no matter what the risk. But the UK is doing all we can to help innocent people caught up in this conflict. We have committed £2.8 billion to Syria since 2012—our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis. And we are on track to resettle 20,000 vulnerable refugees who have fled the country, with our national resettlement programme resettling more than any other EU member state in 2017.

I understand the public interest, so I have asked my officials to expedite the publication of our next transparency report on disruptive and investigatory powers, including the most up-to-date annual figures on deprivation of citizenship. This Government remain committed to protecting our citizens around the world. But I will not shy away from using the powers at my disposal to protect this country”.