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A woman left the UK to join ISIS has lost a bid to have her citizenship restored

Feb 11, 2024 | studies

European Observatory to Combat Radicalization – EOCR

Woman stripped of UK citizenship after joining ISIS loses battle to return home

thenationalnews – A woman who left the UK to join the ISIS terrorist group has lost a bid to have her British citizenship restored.Now 27 years old, the woman is living with her son in Syria’s Al Roj camp, after being stripped of UK nationality in 2019.She cannot be named for legal reasons.The woman delayed her challenge against losing citizenship for two and a half years.

The woman is “one of a number of individuals” who have been stripped of their UK citizenship “having gone to Syria to align themselves with the ISIS” who are now living in camps, a court has heard.There are currently believed to be about 60 children trapped there.

The woman, identified only as F4, brought her case to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in a bid to be allowed to appeal to against the decision to strip her of citizenship, despite having missed the initial 28-day deadline.Maya Foa, the joint executive director of human rights campaign group Reprieve, who worked with F4 in the camp in a bid to get her repatriated to the UK, said the judges’ decision to reject her bid was “disappointing”.

“The idea that you would strip someone of their citizenship who is very young and then even deny them the right to appeal, even to be heard, where are the principles of justice?” she told The National.“This is a judicial black hole, where you can be stripped of citizenship and left stateless, and the government doesn’t even give you the right to be heard.”

The Somalia-born woman, who came to the UK as a child, went to Syria aged 17 to join ISIS and married a Swedish national, also of Somali ethnicity, who was reportedly violent and abusive towards her.The couple had a son and a daughter, who died aged only a few months old, in the first half of 2019, after which the woman fled ISIS territory and headed to Al Roj.

While living in harsh conditions, in which the woman and her son suffered from starvation, she was being helped by Reprieve, the hearing was told.Then in December 2019, her UK citizenship was stripped and she was given 28 days to appeal, which she was informed about by her mother in a WhatsApp voice note.But she told her mother in several messages she had no wish to appeal the decision and one message said, “I do not want British citizenship”.

In August 2022 she changed her mind and sought an extension to the deadline, which was heard by SIAC at the end of last year.Ms Foa told the hearing that, among women living in camps, there are often misunderstandings about the process of appealing and the consequences for their children, which results in “rumours and misinformation spreading quickly”.

Initially the woman feared her child would be taken away from her. At the time she was told of the decision, she was “very ill” and unable to process the information, her lawyers said.Only once she became aware of the significance of the decision did she have the confidence to challenge it, they argued.

A psychologist gave evidence that the woman was “in a state of trauma and grief” over the death of her daughter, as well as the treatment she received at the hands of her husband.She also feared for her son’s safety and was not in a fit state to make a proper decision about an appeal, the expert said.

But a Home Office witness told the hearing the messages sent by F4 to her mother indicated she had “engaged with her family about the appeal”.The three judges hearing the case said F4 has “failed to show a reasonable explanation for the delay” in appealing.

While F4 and her son maybe living in harsh conditions in the Al Roj camp that is not ground alone for time to be extended for her to be allowed to appeal and does not meet the test of being “unjust”, said the judges.Ms Foa said the court’s decision “begs the question – what is the government trying to hide?”

“All we’re talking about is putting to scrutiny the Home Secretary’s decision to strip a whole bunch of people of their citizenship without giving any reasons.”She accused the government of not living up to its commitment to tackling modern slavery and people trafficking and that research indicted in cases like F4’s, 60 per cent of the women met the definition of potential victims of human trafficking.

European Observatory to Combat Radicalization – EOCR


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