IS bride Shamima Begum set to begin her fight to return to UK

22 February 2019, 02:16 | Updated: 22 February 2019, 07:23

A lawyer representing Shamima Begum's family has told Sky News he hopes to help the IS bride appeal against the decision to strip her of British citizenship "as soon as possible".

Tasnime Akunjee, who is working on behalf of the teenager's relatives, also said her family is "quite eager" to hear what steps the home secretary will take to ensure her five-day-old son is brought back to the UK.

He, or another lawyer, are planning to go to the Syrian camp where the 19-year-old is staying as soon as possible so she can appoint legal representation and begin her fight to be allowed back into Britain.

On Thursday night, Shamima Begum's sister Renu sent a letter to Sajid Javid - and wrote the newborn child "is the one true innocent and should not lose privilege of being raised in the safety of this country".

In the letter, which was obtained by the BBC, she added: "We are sickened by the comments she has made... we hope you will understand that we, as her family, cannot simply abandon her."

Mr Akunjee said there is no need to put Shamima Begum's child at risk in the al Hawl camp, where Sky News has witnessed residents begging for food, medicine and assistance in a multitude of languages.

However, Shamima Begum has previously said that she does not want to be separated from her baby, and the lawyer admitted: "No one can stand in the way of a mother and what her decision-making process around her child should be - unless she is deemed unfit by a psychiatrist."

During the interview by phone, Mr Akunjee said he hoped that a psychiatrist and other health professionals could be sent to the camp to examine her, warned her case "may take some time to get through the courts", and claimed he had received death threats for assisting her family.

One option could be to make her child a ward of court, where the child has a guardian appointed by a judge.

He said: "For all intents and purposes [Shamima Begum] is stateless. But the child is not.

"If one were to try to make a ward of court application… the mother technically has a right to challenge that.

"How does that work when someone is stateless and the child is not? It's a bizarre scenario... I'm liaising with family lawyers who are looking at this and scratching their heads."

On Thursday, Sky News correspondent John Sparks spoke again with Shamima Begum, who said her son was ill and claimed camp managers had lost her papers - preventing her from accessing food and other supplies.

She had two other children during her time, but both died young due to sickness.

The teenager claimed she is willing to change and be rehabilitated if the UK accepted her, despite previously saying she does not regret joining the terror group and that she was "okay" with beheadings by IS.

Asked if she had anything to say to British politicians, Shamima Begum said: "I would like them to re-evaluate my case with a bit more mercy in their heart, you know."

Mr Javid has insisted Shamima Begum will not be left "stateless" - something which is banned under international law. The home secretary has confirmed that her son is a British citizen, as he was born before her citizenship was removed.

The teenager's family and their lawyer currently have no plans to meet or work with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, despite him telling Sky News that he believes "she should be brought back" to Britain and that removing her citizenship is "not the right thing to do".

Elsewhere in the letter to Mr Javid, Renu Begum said her sister was "groomed" by the terror group - adding: "My family went to every fathomable effort in February 2015 to attempt to block Shamima from getting into ISIS territory.

"We contacted and co-operated with all the relevant government agencies in both the UK and Turkey to try and stop her progress. Unfortunately, our efforts were in vain."

The family's lawyer said that, so far, Mr Javid has not said anything that indicates he would consider bringing the teenager back to the UK, adding: "One can only hope he somewhere has a heart."

Mr Akunjee went on to describe the appeal process as "truly bizarre" as the relevant paperwork has been sent to Shamima Begum's last-known address.

He added: "[The Home Office] expect her to somehow have a copy of the application notice to appeal knowing that she's not there and that there's no way to get communications to her within a 28-day period.

"That might well be something we look at - as a procedure, how does that stack up in any way or form in terms of the idea of justice and access to justice."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "In recent days the home secretary has clearly stated that his priority is the safety and security of Britain and the people who live here.

"In order to protect this country, he has the power to deprive someone of their British citizenship where it would not render them stateless.

"We do not comment on individual cases, but any decisions to deprive individuals of their citizenship are based on all available evidence and not taken lightly."

Shamima Begum, from Bethnal Green in east London, fled to Syria aged 15 and married a Dutch IS fighter three weeks after her arrival.

The vast majority of the British public support the government's decision to strip her of her British citizenship, according to a Sky Data poll.