Shamima Begum’s baby could still hold British citizenship despite the government’s move to strip the 19-year-old of her citizenship, Sajid Javid has suggested.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the home secretary said he would not comment on individual cases, but told MPs: “Children should not suffer, so if a parent does lose their British citizenship, it does not affect the rights of their child.”
His comments came a day after it was revealed that the Home Office had revoked Begum’s British citizenship.
While it is illegal for a government to make someone stateless, it had been argued that Begum could be eligible for Bangladeshi citizenship, with both of her parents coming from the South Asian country.
But Bangladesh interior minister Asaduzzaman Khan insisted on Wednesday that Begum’s return was a matter for the British government, saying “Bangladesh has nothing to do with this.”
The young mother had previously told the BBC she did not have a Bangladeshi passport and had never even visited the country.
Begum travelled to Syria four years ago as a 15-year-old schoolgirl to join Islamic State. She was recently discovered heavily pregnant in a refugee camp in the country.
It is not clear what this now means for Begum’s status as a citizen. But Javid used his appearance in parliament to insist that the children of those who lose their British citizenship would not be unfairly affected.
“Deprivation is a powerful tool that can only be used to keep the most dangerous individuals out of this country and we do not use it lightly,” the Cabinet minister told MPs.
Javid said that when someone “turns their back on the fundamental values and supports terror, they don’t have an automatic right to return to the UK”.
He later told ITV’s Peston programme he would never make a decision that would leave an individual stateless.
“I’m not aware of any home secretary in any party in any previous government that has taken a decision that would leave anyone stateless,” he said.
“I’m not going to talk about an individual, but I can be clear on the point that I would not take a decision and I believe none of my predecessors ever have taken a decision that at the point the decision is taken would leave that individual stateless.”
It had been queried whether Begum’s baby – thought to be named Jarrah – would still be considered a Brit given his mother’s circumstances.
But while Javid’s comments suggest that his status as a Brit remains unchanged, the question still remains how the infant would arrive in the UK in the first place.
According to the Home Office website, a “range of specialist services” are available to the children of those returning from Syria.
“We expect children returning from Syria to have been exposed to the conflict, indoctrination and to have experienced severe trauma,” it reads, adding that concerns over safeguarding and “national security” must be addressed.
Local authorities and the police can use their powers to protect returning children and minimise any threat they could pose within schools and their local communities, the site adds.