Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the decision to strip Shamima Begum of her British citizenship, and said she should be permitted to return to the UK to face questioning.
The Labour leader on Thursday criticised Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s action as “very extreme”, telling ITV News: “Well she obviously has, in my view, a right to return to Britain. On that return she must obviously face a lot of questions about everything she has done and at that point any action may or may not be taken.
“But I think the idea of stripping somebody of their citizenship when they were born in Britain is a very extreme manoeuvre indeed.”
He added: “Indeed I questioned the right of the home secretary to have these powers when the original law was brought in by Theresa May when she was home secretary.”
The British Nationality Act 1981 provides the home secretary with the power to strip people of citizenship if it is “conducive to the public good”.
Begum fled London aged 15 to join the so-called Islamic State caliphate in Syria, and has now said she wants to return to the UK with her newborn son.
She told Sky News she would like British politicians “to re-evaluate my case with a bit more mercy in their heart”, adding: “I am willing to change.”
Javid has defended his move and insisted he would not leave an individual stateless – which is illegal under international law – after Bangladesh denied she had citizenship there.
A statement from the nation’s foreign affairs minister Shahriar Alam also said there is “no question” Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, could enter the country.
Mr Javid’s move came amid heated debate over whether the teenager should be able to return to the UK after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp with the terror group’s reign nearly over.
The Muslim Council of Britain has warned Mr Javid’s move heightens fears of “a two-tiered citizenship scheme, sets a dangerous precedent and demonstrates an abdication of responsibility”.
While many do not want to see Ms Begum return to the UK, others have argued she should face prosecution for her actions, and attempts at deradicalisation.
The Begum family’s lawyer Tasnime Akunjee said he would be considering whether she has been left stateless as he prepares an appeal.
He said she was born in the UK, has never had a Bangladeshi passport and is not a dual citizen, which was confirmed by the Bangladeshi minister.
Meanwhile, the government’s chief adviser on countering extremism warned radical Islamists could exploit the unease caused by Javid’s move.
Independent adviser Sara Khan said: “The government has to recognise the unease felt by a wide range of people about decisions of this kind, not least those from minority communities with dual nationality.
“It has to build trust in its approach, because Islamist extremists will exploit alienation and grievance to turn people against their country.”