The British Islamic State (Isil) bride Shamima Begum has a legal right to return to the UK the Head of MI6 has said. The Director General of MI6 has said that British citizens have a right to return home from Syria, even though they may still present a threat to national security.
Alex Younger, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service - better known as MI6 - said he was "very concerned" about returning British nationals that had fought for or supported the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Speaking ahead of the Munich Security Conference which started on Friday, Mr Younger said: "All experience tells us that once someone's put themselves in that sort of position they are likely to have acquired both the skills and connections that make them potentially very dangerous.
"Anyone who has put themselves in this situation can expect to be questioned and investigated and potentially prosecuted if they return to our jurisdiction."
When asked about the case of Ms Begum, the heavily pregnant 19-year-old Londoner who travelled to Syria four years ago to become an Isil bride and who now wants to return to the UK to have her baby, Mr Younger said: "British nationals have a right to come to the UK."
Britain’s intelligence chief cautioned about showing triumphalism at the demise of Isil, saying such an approach led to hubris.
"The military defeat of the caliphate does not represent the end of the terrorist threat that we face," he said. "You can’t use military force to kill and idea."
Mr Younger warned that Isil was already in the process of trying to grow elsewhere around the world, even as its fighters are defeated in Syria, and that the threat from al-Qaeda had not been completely extinguished.
He said: "Daesh [Isil] is a resilient organisation and it is reorganising, returning to its natural state as an asymmetric transnational terrorist organisation. We see it morphing, spreading out.
"Al-Qaeda...has undergone a certain resurgence as a result of the degradation of Daesh and it is a force that should also be taken seriously. It is definitely not done out, and is something we should remain focused on."
Mr Younger was keen to stress the "strength and unconditional nature of the UK security offer" and said Brexit would not harm enduring partnerships.
"Britain’s commitment to the security of the European continent is unconditional," he said. "Our aim is to strengthen our security partnerships in Europe, alongside our other intelligence partnerships across the globe, because that is the inescapable logic of a world of increasingly international hybrid threats."
The ability to "operationalise" partnerships with other intelligence organisations was critical in preserving our way of life, he said, and was used to great effect after the nerve-agent attack in Salisbury last year.
Referring to the intelligence sharing relationships with France and Germany he said: "There are people alive in our three countries today because of terrorist attack plans that we have successfully disrupted, showing the value and importance of cooperation to all sides. This is not a one-way street."
"Even in the past year...people’s lives have been saved in all of our countries as a result of this cooperation. The counter terrorist machine is working as it should. Bombs haven’t gone off as a result of our capacity to exchange data with each other.
"Brexit doesn’t fundamentally alter those relationships."