The 23-year-old lost a challenge on Wednesday against the decision to strip her of her citizenship on national security grounds at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).
Giving the tribunal’s decision, Mr Justice Jay found while there was a “credible suspicion that Ms Begum was recruited, transferred and then harboured for the purpose of sexual exploitation”, this did not prevent the then-home secretary Sajid Javid from removing her citizenship.
“It was for those advising the secretary of state and not for the appellate tribunal to consider and assess whether Ms Begum’s travel was voluntary,” he said in a 76-page public judgment.
Ms Begum was 15 when she travelled from Bethnal Green, east London, through Turkey and into territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in 2015, before her citizenship was revoked in February 2019.
Speaking outside Field House in central London after the judgment was handed down, one of Ms Begum’s solicitors, Daniel Furner, said they would be challenging the ruling.
He said: “In terms of the legal fight, that’s nowhere near over. We’re not going into details about exactly what that means at this stage. What else this judgment calls out for though is some courage and some leadership from the home secretary to look at this case afresh in light of the clear and compelling factual findings this court has made.”
Mr Furner later said neither Ms Begum nor home secretary Suella Braverman were allowed to know the outcome of the case until 10am on Wednesday. Gareth Peirce, another of Ms Begum’s lawyers, called the decision “an extraordinary judgment delivered in an extraordinary way”.
She added: “The implication, the outcome, that we face is that no British child who has been trafficked outside the UK will be protected by the British state if the home secretary invokes national security.” In the ruling, Mr Justice Jay said the case had been “of great concern and difficulty”.
He continued: “This Secretary of State … maintains that national security is a weighty factor and that it would take a very strong countervailing case to outweigh it.
“Reasonable people will profoundly disagree with the Secretary of State, but that raises wider societal and political questions which it is not the role of this commission to address.”
During the five-day hearing in November, Ms Begum’s lawyers argued she should have been viewed as a victim of child trafficking and that she was “persuaded, influenced and affected with her friends by a determined and effective Isis propaganda machine”.
On Wednesday, Mr Justice Jay said the commission was concerned by the Security Services’ “apparent downplaying of the significance of radicalisation and grooming, in stating that what happened to Ms Begum is not unusual”.
He continued: “The commission does not doubt that this has been commonplace but that has no real relevance. History, and sadly the present, is replete with examples of dictatorships attempting to manipulate their subject populations with propaganda and the like. It is commonplace that they succeed.”
However, he said the tribunal could not accept that being radicalised as a minor was relevant to the risk Ms Begum posed now.
He continued: “Some might argue that a child who has been radicalised or brainwashed has become more intractable and refractory than an adult.
“But the real point here is that, in the light of Begum, this is exactly the sort of issue that lies within the judgment of the Secretary of State and not the commission.”
Wednesday’s decision was welcomed by the Home Office and former home secretary Sajid Javid.
Mr Javid said: “I welcome today’s court ruling, which has again upheld my decision to remove an individual’s citizenship on national security grounds. This is a complex case, but home secretaries should have the power to prevent anyone entering our country who is assessed to pose a threat to it.”