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Court hears ‘overwhelming evidence’ that Shamima Begum was victim of trafficking when she left Britain

THERE is “overwhelming evidence” that Shamima Begum was a victim of trafficking when she left Britain, a court heard today.

Ms Begum was 15 when she and two other east London schoolgirls travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State group in February 2015.

Her British citizenship was revoked on national security grounds shortly after she was found, nine months pregnant, in a Syrian refugee camp in February 2019.

Ms Begum, now 21, is challenging the Home Office’s decision to remove her British citizenship and has asked a specialist tribunal to consider whether she was a victim of trafficking when she travelled to Syria.

Her lawyers told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) at a hearing today that the Home Office had a legal duty to investigate whether Ms Begum was a victim of trafficking when her citizenship was revoked.

Samantha Knights QC said that “the counter-terrorism unit had suspicions of coercion and control” at the time Ms Begum left Britian, which she argued “gives rise to the need to investigate the issue of trafficking.”

In written submissions, Ms Begum’s legal team said the Home Office failed to consider whether she was “a child trafficked to, and remaining in, Syria for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced marriage.”

Ms Begum also wants to challenge the removal of her British citizenship on the grounds that it made her “de facto stateless,” and that the decision was procedurally unfair.

David Blundell QC, representing the Home Office, said: “Ms Begum should not be permitted to amend her grounds again.”

He argued in written submissions: “It is significant that the allegation is not that Ms Begum was trafficked, but rather that she ‘may have been’ trafficked.”

Mr Justice Jay is expected to give a ruling at a later date.

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