British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has been accused of moral cowardice and “treating the UK as a banana republic” in pursuit of his leadership ambitions following the death of Jarrah Begum, the three-week-old son of Islamic State (IS) bride Shamima Begum.
A Church of England bishop and a former director of public prosecutions led the chorus of outrage directed at the secretary as demand grew for him to review his controversial decision to strip the 19-year-old of British citizenship — a move that left her stateless and her baby in legal limbo.
“This was an abject decision by a home secretary apparently so intent on furthering his leadership ambitions that he has lost sight of sovereignty, treating the UK as a banana republic incapable of regulating its own citizens,” said Lord Macdonald, who was director of public prosecutions of England and Wales between 2003 and 2008.
The peer, who oversaw a 2010 government review of counterterrorism and security powers, told the Observer that Javid’s “opportunism has other costs, including a more dangerous world where stateless individuals roam with no allegiance and the death of unprotected innocents, in this case a vulnerable British baby.”
“No dignified self-governing state should abandon responsibility for its own citizens in this way, trying to dump them on to poorer countries with failed security arrangements. Mr Javid’s behavior is a recipe for refugee chaos and moral cowardice of the worst sort,” he said.
“She should come back, be properly interviewed and, if it’s found that she has broken the law, she should face the law. If it’s found that she has been radicalized, she should be given help and support,” said the Right Reverend Alan Smith, the bishop of St Albans.
“The home secretary has a responsibility to ensure people in this country are protected. We could have done this by taking her through due process and it is to be regretted if we are not following it, because this is a human rights issue,” he said.
Begum, from Bethnal Green, east London, was 15 when she and two other schoolgirls went to Syria to join the IS in February 2015. She gave birth in a Syrian refugee camp last month, having already lost two children.
News that a third child had died has left her relatives in London distraught.
Javid’s decision to strip the teenager of her British citizenship triggered a ferocious debate over whether she should be allowed to return.
“It is against international law to make someone stateless, and now an innocent child has died as a result of a British woman being stripped of her citizenship. This is callous and inhumane,” shadow home secretary Diane Abbott tweeted yesterday.
“Many of us feared this tragic outcome when the home secretary washed his hands of Britain’s responsibility for a British citizen and a British baby,” Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesperson Ed Davey said.
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