Muslim convert who travelled to Syria during conflict cleared to enter NI

A former Irish soldier who converted to Islam and travelled to Syria in the midst of its cataclysmic civil war has now been granted permission to enter Northern Ireland, he lawyers have said.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 12:34 pm
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 2:09 pm
Image of Lisa Smith taken from a BBC broadcast and interview with her

Lisa Smith, formerly a Dundalk resident whose father is from Belfast, secured the right to enter the Province “at her convenience” thanks to a judgement in a UK court.

Smith was arrested at Dublin Airport in 2019 after returning from Turkey in November with her young daughter.

She was charged with membership of the Islamic State group (aka ISIS), and of terrorist financing, which she denies, and is awaiting trial.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Her case was brought forward by Belfast firm Phoenix Law, which describes its mission as being “to improve human rights and accountability on the island of Ireland”.

She was in her mid-30s when she travelled to Syria, and is now 39.

In a BBC interview in 2019 she said she never picked up a gun while in Syria.

The statement from Phoenix Law today reads in full:

“On the 31st of December 2019 Lisa Smith was served with a notice by the British Home Secretary to exclude her from the United Kingdom on the grounds of national security.

“Ms Smith appealed against this decision to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (commonly referred to as SIAC) sitting in London.

“The case was heard on 21st April 2021.

“It was an agreed fact between the parties that a national of an EEA state who is not also a British citizen can be excluded from the United Kingdom.

“Accordingly, Irish nationals or citizens can be excluded, but not those with dual nationality.

“Ms Smith argued that she had close family connections to the North of Ireland and often travelled across the border for a variety of reasons.  Crucially, she argued that in any event, her father having been born in Belfast was entitled to be treated as a dual national and by virtue of his dual nationality, it would be unlawful to exclude her from the jurisdiction. 

“The appeal raised important issues about the recognition of dual citizenship to those citizens from Northern Ireland and the reflection of same within the Good Friday Agreement.

“In particular, the appeal heard that it is discriminatory under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to treat those children of unmarried parents any differently, to those of married couples.

“SIAC has today ruled in Lisa Smith’s favour and allowed her appeal. The decision to exclude Lisa has been determined to be discriminatory and as such the appellant has succeeded in challenging the decision to issue her with an exclusion notice.”

It then quotes her solicitor Darragh Mackin as saying: “Today’s ruling is hugely significant for the upholding of basic human rights principles which include the right to be free from discrimination.

“The decision to exclude our client was discriminatory and contrary to the basic principles underpinning the Good Friday Agreement.

“As an Irish citizen who resides in a border town, it was always asserted that to restrict her from travelling across the border was unlawful and could not be stood over.

“We warmly welcome the Court’s determination today which will now reinstate our client’s basic rights to travel to the North of Ireland at her convenience.”

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe

Editor