Sajid Javid breached human rights law by failing to examine whether Shamima Begum was a victim of trafficking before stripping her of British citizenship, a court has been told.
The Court of Appeal heard claims that as home secretary, Mr Javid should have properly investigated whether the state had failed in its duty to protect Ms Begum, who was aged just 15 when she travelled from Bethnal Green, east London, to Syrian territory controlled by the Islamic State (IS) terror group in 2015.
Ms Begum’s legal team say that his failure to do so was a clear breach of Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and therefore rendered invalid his decision to revoke her British citizenship in February 2019, shortly after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp.
Launching Ms Begum’s appeal, Samantha Knights KC told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday: “The Secretary of State was required to consider this legal obligation under Article 4. There is an obligation to identify victims and potential victims and conduct a full investigation into the circumstances of their trafficking and take reasonable steps to prevent their trafficking.”
She added: “They didn’t identify her as a victim of trafficking so they didn’t look at her through that prism. There were events leading to Ms Begum leaving the country that the state should have investigated. There were failures by schools, police and local authorities in preventing the risk of her leaving the country.
“Children are particularly vulnerable to grooming and the Secretary of State failed to consider this in his assessment.”
Ms Begum made a previously unsuccessful appeal against Mr Javid’s decision to strip her of British citizenship on national security grounds in November 2022, during a five-day hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).
In February this year, the 24-year-old lost a subsequent appeal against SIAC’s verdict not to challenge the Home Secretary’s decision.