People trafficked to Syria and radicalized remain threats to national security as they can become desensitized after being exposed to extreme violence, the Home Office has argued as it contested Shamima Begum’s appeal against the removal of her British citizenship.
Begum was 15 when she traveled from her home in Bethnal Green, east London, through Turkey and into territory controlled by Islamic state (IS). After she was found nine months pregnant in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019, then Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship on national security grounds.
Begum, now 23, is challenging the decision at the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal (Siac).
The court heard that according to the security services, people who were traveling to Syria to align with IS “had probably been radicalized, to have contributed to the continuation of [IS] as a unit and may have received military training, fought with [IS] or participated in terrorist attacks”.
“They were subjected to routine acts of extreme violence which would likely have had the effect of desensitizing individuals and encouraging them to see violent terrorist activity as an ‘acceptable and legitimate course of action’,” the court in London said. written submissions on Thursday.
Sir James Eadie KC, for Home office, said Begum spent four years in IS-controlled territory before the removal of her citizenship. He later referred to statements she has made to the media, including an interview in which she said she was not confused by seeing a head in a trash can.
“If you’ve been exposed for long periods of time, there’s an almighty problem,” Eadie said.
Begum’s lawyers have said she was “recruited, transported, transferred, housed and received in Syria for the purposes of sexual exploitation and marriage to an adult man”.
Eadie said the threat to national security was the most important factor. “You can be acted upon in the most horrible, unacceptable way, exposed in the most unacceptable way, desensitized in the most unacceptable way, and yet unfortunately … still be a security threat.”
Begum’s lawyers argued that she was “persuaded, swayed and swayed with her friends by a determined and efficient Isis propaganda machine”.
Samantha Knights KC said in written submissions: “What evidence is available shows that rather than seeing the appellant as a victim, a child who was manipulated and exploited, the Home Secretary assumed that she acted ‘voluntarily’ in going to Syria and aligned with Isis.”
The hearing, before Mr Justice Jay, is due to conclude on Friday and a written decision is expected at a later date.