Revoking citizenship has far-reaching consequences

Shamima Begum at Gatwick Airport, southern England,on Feb 17, 2015.
Shamima Begum at Gatwick Airport, southern England,on Feb 17, 2015.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

I agree with Foreign Editor Jeremy Au Yong's conclusion about the issue of citizenship for returning Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sympathisers (Returning ISIS brides and the obligations of citizenship, Feb 24).

The United Kingdom might be more than justified in revoking Shamima Begum's citizenship but, to paraphrase the writer, is it the right thing to do?

First, as Mr Au Yong pointed out, there are at least 40,000 fighters from more than 100 countries thought to have gone to Syria to join ISIS.

If all the affected countries adopted the UK's stance, then who becomes responsible for people like Begum? Should it be Syria?

On a practical level, surely the courts of the UK are better equipped to deal with these cases than Syria, given its ongoing civil war.

Second, do we want a large group of radicalised individuals roaming around stateless - undocumented, unsupervised and unpunished? Would that not contribute more to undermining global security?

It is worth noting that the right to a nationality is enshrined as a fundamental human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The UK Home Office's case for revocation of nationality is based on the belief that Begum can apply for Bangladeshi citizenship as her mother is believed to be Bangladeshi.

What if the returning ISIS supporter had been a Caucasian born to British-born parents?

Could the UK have revoked her citizenship?

Does this mean the citizenship of children born to immigrants are more tenuous than that of their local counterparts?

The UK's decision sets a chilling precedent.

Ultimately, revoking someone's citizenship is a decision made by the judiciary, and not politicians.

But the public needs to realise that this is more than just a debate about whether Begum knew what she was getting into, if she was groomed or if she deserves compassion.

Revoking the citizenships of returning ISIS supporters has far-reaching consequences not just for the individual countries, but the world at large too.

Shoba Haridas (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2019, with the headline 'Revoking citizenship has far-reaching consequences'. Print Edition | Subscribe