Human Rights

UK begins to repatriate British orphans in Syria



Members of the Kurdish administration in north-east Syria escort three Russian orphans, whose parents were affiliated with ISIS, as they are delivered to a Russian delegation on March 25th in the Syrian town of Qamishli. [Giuseppe Cacace/AFP]

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday (November 21st) said the UK had "facilitated" the return of British orphans whose parents had died in Syria "because it was the right thing to do".

"These innocent, orphaned, children should never have been subjected to the horrors of war," Raab said in a statement confirming the first children had begun to arrive back in Britain.

"We have facilitated their return home, because it was the right thing to do," he added. "Now they must be allowed the privacy and given the support to return to a normal life."

Britain's Foreign Office did not release any further details.

In a message posted on social media, the de facto foreign minister of the Kurdish administration in northern Syria said three children had been handed over to British authorities on Thursday.

"Three British orphans from 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' (ISIS) parents were handed over to a delegation representing the British Foreign Ministry," Abdulkarim Omar said.

In a report last month, Save The Children said at least 60 British children were stranded in north-east Syria.

Twice the number previously estimated, the non-governmental organisation said many were under the age of five and born to British parents suspected of having joined ISIS and then died or fled fighting without them.

In a parliamentary debate in October, MPs had warned the vulnerable children risked "turning into terrorists" if they were not brought home from Syria.

Alison Griffin, of Save The Children, said Britain's decision was "transforming the lives of these innocent children who have been through terrible things that are far beyond their control".

"They will now have the precious chance to recover, have happy childhoods and live full lives," she added. "We should be proud of everyone who has worked to make this happen."

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