Shamima Begum 'should be brought home'

Shamima Begum and other British women who joined the Islamic State should be allowed home, according to the government’s independent terrorism watchdog.

Barrister Jonathan Hall KC, the reviewer of terrorism legislation, will argue that British or formerly British women who have fled to Syria should be allowed to return home, because that is the position taken by allies such as the United States.

In a speech to King’s College London, he will say the UK’s “strategic distance” policy of removal of citizenship and limited consular assistance is “at a crossroads,” according to The Times.

Mr Hall will say the risk posed by Islamic State has changed and that as repatriations by other European countries have picked up, the UK is “under the spotlight”.

The government is under pressure from allies such as the US to bring them home. Under the Biden administration, the US has repatriated dozens of American citizens, citing that squalid camps in Syria threaten regional stability and western security.

Mr Hall will acknowledge the argument from MI5 about the risk that ISIS Britons pose, but will argue that, compared to men: "Women are less likely to have travelled for the purpose of fighting and less likely to have played battlefield roles."

He will also highlight concerns about a new generation of child extremists reared under the “cubs of the caliphate” programme in northern Syria, the name given to children trained by Islamic State as child soldiers between the ages of 10 and 15.

Ms Begum was 15 when she joined the Islamic State in 2015, fleeing the UK with two friends from Bethnal Green in East London. She has been in a camp in northern Syria since the caliphate fell in 2017.

Last week she lost her legal challenge against the removal of her British citizenship in 2019 by Sajid Javid, the then home secretary.

She is one of an estimated 60 British women and children held by the Kurdish authorities in Syria. Many have not had their citizenship removed but they have no travel documents and thus no means of leaving Syria without the British government’s co-operation.

Ms Begum's lawyers argued she was trafficked as a minor to join IS, but the Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled that the government acted lawfully to protect national security. The decision was welcomed by home secretary Suella Braverman.