Let’s answer the question straight away; I’ll come clean with my opinions below but I would appreciate it if you would respond to the poll with your own, uncoloured by anything I state.
For clarity: Home Secretary Sajid Javid has revoked Shamima Begum’s UK citizenship. It seems he has done this in line with the Nationality Act 1981 and government guidance from 2017, stating that Mr Javid has the power to order the deprivation if it would be “conducive to the public good”, as long as they are not left without any citizenship. It is believed to be possible that Ms Begum has dual citizenship as her family is of Bangladeshi origin.
Here’s the poll. Notice there are only two possible answers; I’m asking for a clear result:
This has proved an extremely divisive, emotive subject.
I have been accused of racism, extreme right-wing political views, of seeking the death of an unborn child, of supporting the grooming of children and more – all on the basis of absolutely no factual information at all.
Demands that Ms Begum must have been a victim of grooming collapse when one realises they are based on a comment by former chief of counter-terrorism policing, Sir Mark Rowley, who “suggested that she might be treated as a victim of grooming”. There’s a lot of “maybe” in that sentence!
Nor can I find reference to extreme right-wing views. Concern for the protection of innocent people wasn’t extremism, last time I checked.
As far as I can tell, the claim that I wanted an unborn child to die was based entirely on the belief that if Ms Begum’s baby was born in the refugee camp that is her current home, it would die. Events have overtaken people who put forward that opinion, as it has been born there and is alive and well.
This fact renders another part of the argument irrelevant: Ms Begum had requested that she be returned to the UK for NHS medical treatment to help her give birth to the child and this is no longer an issue. She would have been ineligible for that treatment in any case, as NHS care for UK citizens is based on residence and she has not been in the UK for around four years.
That leaves us with the question of whether, as a UK citizens, Ms Begum should be returned to face justice and/or rehabilitation – be returned to society.
I have written at length on this in the other two articles, but it may be worth addressing the argument many have used – that hundreds of other UK citizens who have defected to IS in the past have been allowed to come back. This may be true, but Mr Javid has said more than 100 people of dual nationality have been deprived of their UK citizenship after travelling abroad in support of terrorist groups. This number includes two British men who had been accused of being members of an IS cell dubbed “The Beatles”.
The issue is whether these people may pose a risk to citizens of the UK if they come back.
I have already quoted the head of MI6, who pointed out that Ms Begum may present a threat to people in the UK if she returns and that a “very significant level of resource” would be required to ensure public safety.
He said: “We are very concerned about this because all experience tells us that once someone has been put in that sort of position, or put themselves in that sort of position, they are likely to have acquired the skills or connections that make them potentially very dangerous.”
We know that Ms Begum is unrepentant about her own actions and seems still to support IS, its aims and methods.
A prime purpose of a country’s government is the protection of the people. It is clear that the government could argue successfully against bringing a known terrorist sympathiser back into this country from a foreign land, in order to protect the population in general.
It is impossible to prove that bringing this person back to the UK is not deliberately putting UK citizens in harm’s way. That is a risk that no UK government minister may take – especially after Salman Ramadan Abedi – the Manchester Arena suicide bomber.
For those reasons – paramount being the protection of UK citizens – I have to say the decision is justified.
POSTSCRIPT: As I have been typing this, the BBC’s Newsnight has been discussing this issue, and I have been glad to see a series of experts telling presenter Kirsty Wark exactly what I have been saying in this article. Your opinion may be different – we’ll find out in the results of the poll – but after the storm of hostility I’ve had for even covering this story, the support is welcome. Catch it on iPlayer if you can.
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