Foreign Secretary confirms British orphans in Syria to return to UK
Dominic Raab said ‘it was the right thing to do’.
British orphans whose parents died in Syria are being returned to the UK, the Foreign Secretary has confirmed.
It follows a tweet by the Kurdish administration in Syria which suggests three children were handed to the UK authorities on Thursday.
Dominic Raab last month told MPs that as long as there was “no security threat”, children rescued from the fighting in northern Syria could be allowed to return home.
On Thursday evening, Mr Raab confirmed that the first children were now in the process of being returned to the UK.
The repatriation followed a visit by Martin Longden, UK special representative for Syria to the region.
In a tweet, Dr Abdulkarim Omar, the de facto foreign minister of the self-styled Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, said: “Today, 21 November 2019, three British orphans from ISIS parents were handed over to a delegation representing the British Foreign Ministry, headed by Mr. Martin Longden, according to an official repatriation document signed by the Selfe Administration and the British Government.”
In a statement, Mr Raab said: “These innocent, orphaned children should never have been subjected to the horrors of war.
“We have facilitated their return home because it was the right thing to do.
“Now they must be allowed the privacy and given the support to return to a normal life.”
The Foreign Office has not released any further details at this stage.
The Telegraph has reported that at least seven British men, 25 British women and more than 60 children are being held by the West-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and more than three-quarters of the British children are aged under five.
In a previous Commons debate in October, former Brexit secretary David Davis said vulnerable British children risked “turning into terrorists” if they were not brought home from Syria.
Mr Davis told MPs that three of the estimated 60 British children thought to be in the region were orphans, adding that those who had not been orphaned “still deserve the United Kingdom’s protection”.
Alison Griffin, head of humanitarian campaigns at Save The Children, said the Government “is transforming the lives of these innocent children who have been through terrible things that are far beyond their control”.
She added: “They will now have the precious chance to recover, have happy childhoods and live full lives. We should be proud of everyone who has worked to make this happen.
“Every child saved is a triumph of compassion in the face of cruelty. We fervently hope this is just the start.
“There are still as many as 60 British children that remain stranded in appalling conditions and Syria’s harsh winter will soon begin to bite. All are as innocent as those rescued today and our very real fear is that they won’t all survive to see the spring. They must all be brought home before it is too late.”
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