British govt criticised as ISIS teen's baby dies in camp

LONDON • A decision by Britain to strip a teenager of her citizenship after she joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was described yesterday as a "stain on the conscience" of the government, following the death of her three-week-old baby.

Shamima Begum was stripped of her citizenship on security grounds last month, leaving her in a detention camp in Syria where her baby died.

The opposition Labour Party said the move to leave an innocent child in a refugee camp was morally reprehensible, while a lawmaker in the ruling Conservative Party said it smacked of populism over principle.

"The tragic death of Shamima Begum's baby, Jarrah, is a stain on the conscience of this government," Labour's home affairs spokesman Diane Abbott said. "The Home Secretary failed this British child and he has a lot to answer for."

Begum, who was found in a Syrian refugee camp last month, has sparked a debate over whether a teenager with a terrorist fighter's child should be left in a war zone to fend for herself.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid withdrew Begum's citizenship, saying his priority was the safety and security of Britain.

The move drew criticism from opposition parties and human rights lawyers, and disquiet among some lawmakers within Prime Minister Theresa May's party. Mr Phillip Lee, a former justice minister and member of Mrs May's party, said he had been deeply concerned by the decision.

 
 

Two senior government members yesterday said the death was a tragedy but that the Home Secretary took the decision on grounds of national security.

"Any baby dying is an absolute tragedy, and that was a British baby," the leader of Parliament Andrea Leadsom told Reuters. "But nevertheless, the Home Secretary's core job is to protect the people of the United Kingdom. I support his decision."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 10, 2019, with the headline 'British govt criticised as ISIS teen's baby dies in camp'. Print Edition | Subscribe