An immigration court in Britain has ruled Shamima Begum, a British-born woman who left home at 15 along with two other girls to join the Islamic State in Syria, has lost her appeal against the decision of the British government to revoke her citizenship.
The British government stripped Ms. Begum’s citizenship in 2019 on national security grounds after she was found in a Kurdish-run detention camp in northeast Syria. Ms. Begum’s latest appeal against that decision was dismissed on Wednesday by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a tribunal that hears appeals against decisions to remove citizenship on national security grounds.
Ms. Begum is believed to be the only one of the three girls who is still alive. She’s being held in al-Roj detention camp in northeastern Syria, and has argued that the Home Office failed to investigate whether she was a “child victim of trafficking.”
Daniel Furner, a lawyer for Ms. Begum, told reporters outside court that they would be challenging the decision. Her lawyers had argued that her entry into Syria was “facilitated by a Canadian agent” working for the Islamic State. Britain’s interior ministry, the Home Office, welcomed Wednesday’s ruling.
That Canadian agent is Mohammed al-Rashed, a double agent who was working for both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Islamic State.
The Globe and Mail previously reported that CSIS informed British intelligence within 48 hours of learning, in 2015, that an operative had smuggled three British schoolgirls, including Ms. Begum, into Syria to join the Islamic State.
British police had been searching for the missing teens, and was apparently unaware they had been smuggled into Syria by Mr. al-Rashed.
He moved the girls across Turkey’s border in February, 2015, and CSIS learned where they were four days later. Within the next two days, Canada passed the information to Britain’s domestic spy agency and its secret intelligence service, according to sources that spoke with The Globe. The sources did not know whether the British agencies shared the information with police at Scotland Yard, who were dealing with the girls’ families.
Judge Robert Jay found there was a “credible suspicion” that Ms. Begum was trafficked to Syria for the purpose of “sexual exploitation,” and said there were “state failures” in relation to her journey from London to Syria via Turkey. However, he ruled that a finding that Ms. Begum may have been trafficked was not enough for her appeal to succeed.
Mr. al-Rashed was recruited by CSIS in 2013 after he approached Canada’s embassy in Jordan, and offered to spy on the Islamic State in return for asylum in Canada. A source said that initially, Mr. al-Rashed provided firsthand information from Islamic State camps inside Syria. Later, he smuggled Islamic State recruits across the Turkish border and shared their identities with CSIS.
The Globe previously reported that Mr. al-Rashed broke operational rules that forbid intelligence sources from “engaging in illegal activities.” Trafficking people is an offence under the Criminal Code, and it’s also a violation of an international protocol on the practice, of which Ottawa is a signatory.
Huda Mukbil, a former senior intelligence officer for CSIS, said Canada should have acted on the information it had sooner.
“The real issue for us here in Canada is the fact that we had this information. The entire world was looking for these minors who somehow went into Turkey. We had that information and we sat on it and this was time-sensitive information. The police were calling for help,” she said.
Ms. Mukbil said she hopes the review of the case that the Prime Minister promised will provide further context into how and why CSIS management did not share the information with British police when there were ways to do so.
The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), an oversight body, said in a statement that it was asked by the Minister of Public Safety to review CSIS human source operations, including following up on earlier studies and related issues of how risks are managed and how the minister is informed. The agency said its work is proceeding on the minister’s referral, and its intention is to provide a redacted version of its review to the public after the minister receives the classified version.
Alexander Cohen, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, said it would be inappropriate to comment on specific cases, but pointed to NSIRA’s review of operational risk assessment process and human source operations.
Ms. Mukbil said a review could help Ms. Begum’s case if it can independently determine that she was exploited, it was a CSIS operative who trafficked her, and there was a duty for CSIS to inform the police in a timely manner.
With reports from Reuters