Media Statement 9/4/2019
END DISCRIMINATION: RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS AND
RESTORE SHAMINA BEGUM’S UK NATIONALITY
RESTORE SHAMINA BEGUM’S UK NATIONALITY
We, the undersigned individuals, organizations and groups are appalled that the United Kingdom has revoked the citizenship of Shamina Begum, a 20-year-old mother who asked to come back to the UK after giving birth to a baby boy in a Syrian Refugee camp. While the UK government refused to allow her and her child in, the baby died.
It was reported that the Home Office sent Begum’s family in UK a letter informing her that Home Secretary Sajid Javid had made an ‘…order “removing her British citizenship” on Tuesday [19/2/2019]. The document, addressed to Begum’s mother, said the decision was taken “in light of the circumstances of your daughter…” (Independent, 20/2/2019)
Denial of Right To Be Heard & a Fair Trial
It is unconscionable and unjust that anyone is deprived of one’s citizenship and/or nationality. It is even more shocking when they have not been accorded the right to be heard and to a fair trial. In addition, any decision should be made by the courts – not merely an administrative order of some Minister, in this case the Home Secretary.
The fact that the UK government knows that Begum is in a Syrian Refugee camp, not in the United Kingdom, and that she had been asking the government to help her and her baby get home, made this act of citizenship cancellation even more outrageous. The tragic death of her child, who was born a British citizen and may have been saved had he been allowed into the UK with his mother, is unconscionable.
The Home Secretary allegedly made his decision “…in light of the circumstances…” but Begum has not been heard, therefore the ‘circumstances’ may not be true – they have certainly not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Fifteen-year-old Begum, with a couple of friends, allegedly left the UK and travelled to Syria. She then allegedly got married to a man from Holland. They allegedly had children, and this is now her third child. Her other children apparently are also no longer alive. Her ‘husband’ was allegedly involved in ISIS and/or a terrorist group. There are allegations that Begum herself may have supported terrorist agendas, beliefs, ideology and may even have participated in their activities.
There can be many allegations, but allegations are irrelevant when it comes to the administration of justice, especially when the end result is the possible deprivation of liberty, or worse, the loss of nationality. Allegations need to be proven beyond reasonable doubt especially when it comes to cancelling one’s birth right. Begum was a citizen at birth. She was not granted her nationality by any subsequent act of government.
What we have heard and seen in the media may have influenced the government of the day. There is always the possibility of bias, selective ‘quotes’ and/or selective reporting that may invite wrong conclusions.
The government, on the other hand, must be more thorough and just, especially if the end result is the expulsion of a person from the UK, the only country that Begum belongs to, the separation from her family there, and now the death of a new born.
At present, there is no crime in UK law that prescribes that the penalty is the revocation of citizenship. Even the worst of criminals, such as convicted mass murderers like the Yorkshire Ripper keep their nationality.
A mother, wife, child or relative of a person convicted of a crime should never be considered guilty simply because of family ties or association. If Shamina Begum did break UK law, then she should be brought back to the UK and accorded a fair trial. If convicted, then she should be sentenced as a citizen in accordance with the law.
DISCRIMINATION – Different treatment based on parentage
Discrimination is also a major concern if different treatment is being accorded to a class of citizens who are assumed to be or maybe entitled to dual nationalities through parentage, or even marriage. Would other citizens of the UK, with no migrant heritage, be treated in the same way ending up with the revocation of their UK citizenship?
‘...Speaking after he revoked her British citizenship, [Home Secretary,] Sajid Javid said he would not take a decision that would leave an individual with nowhere to go… Although he has not commented directly on the case, Mr Javid appeared to confirm earlier in the week the government felt able to take such action – which would prevent her from returning to the UK – because she is a dual national or has the right to citizenship elsewhere. Under international law, revoking someone's citizenship is only permissible if it does not leave that person stateless...’ (Sky News, 21/2/2019).
It must be noted that Begum does not hold dual citizenship, which is permitted in the UK, but is a UK citizen from birth. The Home Secretary’s order would thus now make her stateless. Bangladesh has already stated that Begum does not have any right to Bangladeshi citizenship.
The position adopted by the UK is clearly discriminatory. It sets a frightening precedent for millions of people born in the UK to immigrant parents. They can now lose their citizenship whilst those born to British-born parents cannot.
It is most disturbing to find out that there has been a significant escalation of removal of citizenship. This was highlighted by the Windrush scandal where Commonwealth citizens who had lived in the UK for decades were deported if they could not show documentation proving their citizenship.
Removal of Citizenship has increased by 600% in a year. Over the past 10 years, 150 people have been deprived of UK nationality. Fourteen people were deprived of citizenship in 2016, and 104 in 2017. (Independent, 21/2/2019).
This is another result of the ‘racist policy’ to create a ‘hostile environment’ against anyone assumed to be an immigrant from the ‘New Commonwealth’ (i.e. people from countries with mainly non-white populations) put in place by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was then Home Secretary.
Child Rights Convention – Removing A Mother’s Nationality Is Not In The Best Interest Of A UK Child Citizen
Begum’s son was born days before her citizenship was revoked and was therefore a UK citizen. The government’s action was against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), amongst others, as it deprived him of his mother and of his right to be breastfed by her. It was certainly not in the best interest of the child. His subsequent death is a tragedy that may have been avoided had his rights been prioritized. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott questioned whether stripping Begum of her nationality “made it impossible for her to fulfil her duties as a mother and bring her baby home to a safe place.”
Call on the UK government to forthwith revoke the Home Secretary’s order removing Begum’s UK citizenship/nationality, and immediately bring her back to the UK as per her request;
Call on the UK Government to respect human rights, including the rights of the child as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and
Call on the UK to abolish laws and/or policies that can result in discriminatory treatment against citizens based on factors including parentage.
For and on behalf of the 16 organisations and 27 individuals listed below
Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters - HRDP in Myanmar
Disabled People Against Cuts
English Collective of Prostitutes
Global Women’s Strike
Haiti Action Committee, US
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, UK
Legal Action for Women
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
Marvi Rural Development Organization, MRDO
North South Initiative
Payday men’s network
Peter Tatchell Foundation
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence
WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)
Women of Colour GWS
Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka
Ahmed Aydeed, solicitor
Hannah Baynes, solicitor
Sara Callaway, Women of Colour GWS
Chris Callender, solicitor
Professor Tom Cheesman
Louise Christian (Human Rights lawyer)
Dr Jonathan Fluxman
Anthony Gifford QC
Charles Hector, advocate and solicitor
Toufique Hossain, solicitor
Selma James, Global Women’s Strike
Nina Lopez, Legal Action for Women
Barbara Le Fevre
Daniel Machover, Hickman Rose solicitors
David Malone, barrister
Anna Mazzola, writer
Bhatt Murphy, solicitor
Jacqueline McKenzie, immigration and asylum lawyer
Sally Middleton, Birnberg Peirce & partners solicitors
Rachel Zeng, human rights defender
Benjamin Zephaniah, poet, musician