Sajid Javid’s ‘callous and inhumane’ actions have ‘killed’ a three-week old baby

Sajid David and Shamima Begum
Fréa Lockley

Home secretary Sajid Javid is facing widespread criticism after reports emerged that Shamima Begum’s three-week-old baby died in a refugee camp in Syria. Javid stripped Begum of UK citizenship and refused to allow her to return to the UK. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott called this “tragic death” a “stain on the conscience of this government”.

Tragic

In 2015, Begum left the UK and travelled to Syria with two friends. She was only 15 at the time. Groomed by Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), the girls married Syrian fighters.

In February, Begum tried to return to the UK with her newborn son, Jarrah. Javid refused and demanded that she should be stripped of UK citizenship. In other words, Javid effectively made Bergum stateless.

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Abbott has led the criticism against this decision:

In a statement, Abbott also said:

The tragic death of Shamima Begum’s baby, Jarrah, is a stain on the conscience of this government.

It is against international law to make someone stateless. And to leave a vulnerable young woman and an innocent child in a refugee camp, where we know infant mortality to be high, is morally reprehensible.

She continued:

What does it say about our government on International Women’s Day that it would allow hundreds of men to return to the UK from Syria and Iraq under similar circumstances, but strip citizenship from a young woman who was groomed as a minor. It is clear that society is not past blaming groomed young women for their fate.

Groomed

Begum was groomed when she was only 15-years-old:

Populism

Many people view Javid’s actions as politically motivated. Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith told the Guardian that it was “sad” to see Javid:

trying to better his chances of becoming prime minister by illegally stripping her of her passport, rather than maturely focusing on the needs of a helpless infant who might have been rescued. Indeed, it is just this kind of ill-considered populism that is further alienating many Muslims when we should be proving that we really do believe in human rights for all.

Many people on Twitter agreed:

As a Muslim journalist and editor said:

And he was not alone;

“Breaking point”

On 8 March, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said the situation in the Al Hol refugee camp (where Begum initially fled) was at “breaking point”. So she, and her baby, were in “one of the most vulnerable situations imaginable”:

As the IRC reported, over 12,000 women and children arrived at the camp from ISIS-controlled Baghuz in Eastern Syria since Wednesday “bringing the total population… to over 65,000” people. It also noted:

  • At least 100 deaths, nearly all children, recorded en route or after arriving at camp, but could only be the tip of the iceberg. More than 100 unaccompanied children have arrived at Al Hol.
  • Hundreds of children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and local hospitals are overwhelmed treating trauma injuries.
  • No shelter – around 5,000 family tents [are] needed to house [the] latest influx.

These refugee camps also need international support:

There are still “hundreds of children born to foreign nationals” in Syrian refugee camps. Meanwhile, the UK’s track record in supporting refugees from the Syrian conflict – especially children – is appalling. But it’s now made that worse, and an innocent baby is dead.

Featured images via Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt/Flickr and screengrab

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