Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Britain working with international agencies for repatriation of ISIS children

UK government sources reveal they are working with agencies in Syria to bring back children born to ISIS members

A volunteer at the camp in Ain Issa looking after orphaned children reportedly linked with foreign ISIS fighters in September. AFP
A volunteer at the camp in Ain Issa looking after orphaned children reportedly linked with foreign ISIS fighters in September. AFP

The UK government is working with international organisations in north-east Syria to provide safe passage home for unaccompanied minors born to British ISIS members, The Observer reported.

Three orphans, among others, have been identified as possible beneficiaries of the initiative.

The children are believed to have travelled to Syria with their parents five years ago. They are in Raqqa, ISIS’s former "capital", under the custody of Kurdish forces.

Kurdish officials and British charities have evaluated the possibility of moving the children to the Iraqi Kurdistan region so they can be flown from Erbil to the UK.

The route, particularly during the ceasefire in north-east Syria brokered by US and Turkey, is considered quick and safe.

Save the Children estimated there were about 30 unaccompanied minors in the Al Roj and Al Hol camps, which remain beyond the reach of fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

“While things are evolving rapidly, our latest information is that transport out of the area is possible and border crossings between Syria and Iraq remain open,” a spokesman for Save the Children said.

The UK government has indicated that it is rethinking its policy after refusing the repatriation of British former ISIS member Shamima Begum’s newborn baby.

The child, which was born to the former ISIS member while in detention, died after she was denied the right to return to the UK.

The government had previously said rescue attempts might endanger officials, but the Foreign Office will now look at each child case by case.

“We are looking at orphans and unaccompanied minors who bear UK nationality and whether they can be provided safe passage to return to the UK," the foreign office said.

"We will examine every single case where we are asked for consular assistance but this process is far from straightforward."

Belgium, France and Germany are also in the process of looking to use the window offered by the ceasefire to repatriate women and children linked to ISIS.

Updated: October 21, 2019 08:42 AM

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