Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to strip Shamima Begum of her British citizenship could face a legal challenge.
The Home Office has insisted that Mr Javid has the power to deprive the 19-year-old of her citizenship if it would be “conducive to the public good”, as long as it does not leave her stateless.
Mr Javid’s announcement prompted speculation that Ms Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, holds dual citizenship, but Ms Begum’s family lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, told the Press Association that she was born in the UK, has never had a Bangladeshi passport and is not a dual citizen.
The family are “considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision”, he added.
Barrister David Anderson QC, who previously served as the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: “Those born as British citizens who are not dual nationals cannot be stripped of their citizenship in any circumstances.”
Ms Begum, who was found in a refugee camp in Syria last month, gave birth to a boy at the weekend, and wants to return to the UK.
But the Home Office wrote to her parents in a letter received on Tuesday, saying the order removing Ms Begum’s British citizenship had been made, asking them to tell their daughter and informing them of her right to appeal.
Ms Begum now has 28 days from Tusesday to lodge an appeal with the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), which is independent of the Government and allows individuals to appeal against immigration decisions by the Home Office, such as deportations and the removal of citizenship.
Amendments were made to British national laws in 2014 which made it easier to strip dual nationals of their British citizenship.
These measures were primarily aimed at terrorists who could potentially undermine UK security, for example those who fled to Syria to fight and were attempting to return home.
There are two other instances when British citizenship can be removed, which are permissible even if the person would be rendered stateless.
Deprivation of citizenship can be made if a person obtained their citizenship through registration or naturalisation and the Home Secretary is “satisfied that this was obtained by fraud, false representation or the concealment of a material fact”.
Secondly, when citizenship is obtained through naturalisation and the Home Secretary believes that removing it would be “conducive to the public good” because the person acted in way which is “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of United Kingdom, any of the Islands, or any British overseas territory”.
However, this power, introduced in the Immigration Act 2014, can only be used if there are reasonable grounds for believing the person is able to acquire citizenship of another country, thereby avoiding remaining stateless.
Figures for 2017 show that 104 people were deprived of their British citizenship – up from 14 in the previous year.