Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 10 December 2019

British orphans of ISIS parents repatriated from north-east Syria

First time UK government has tried to bring back nationals from region

Civilians evacuated from ISIS's embattled holdout of Baghouz wait at a screening area held by the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. AFP 
Civilians evacuated from ISIS's embattled holdout of Baghouz wait at a screening area held by the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. AFP 

Three British orphans of ISIS parents have been handed over to UK officials to be repatriated from north-east Syria, a region that was controlled by the terror group.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said bringing the orphans back was "the right thing to do".

"These innocent, orphaned children should never have been subjected to the horrors of war," Mr Raab said.

He called for the returning children to be "allowed the privacy and given the support to return to a normal life".

Dr Abdulkarim Omar, the co-chair of the Foreign Relations Commission in northern Syria, said the UK delegation was led by Martin Longden, special representative for Syria.

The fate of British citizens languishing in north-east Syria, parts of which came under the control of a Kurdish-run administration after the defeat of ISIS this year, has been deeply contentious in the UK.

UK authorities have stripped many accused ISIS members of their citizenship in a move that has been heavily criticised by activists and leading political figures.

Thousands of ISIS foreign supporters are detained in overcrowded jails in north-east Syria.

Even more controversial is the situation with the children of ISIS members.

It was revealed this month that the UK government blocked at the last minute an operation to rescue more than 60 unaccompanied minors in north-east Syria because of security concerns.

Western European governments have blocked citizens from returning, fearing security threats and a popular backlash.

The recent Turkish incursion into a northern Syria has added instability to the region and raised fears that there could be a mass prison break of ISIS members.

The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, the armed faction in north-east Syria, and the autonomous regional administration have warned that they do not have the capacity to look after thousands of ISIS suspects.

“Even before Turkey’s move, it was clear that the SDF did not have the capacity to make long-term arrangements for the many thousands of ISIS members it had captured,” said a paper by the European Council on Foreign Relations, released in October.

“The prisons and refugee camps in which the SDF is holding them are, at best, temporary expedients."

Updated: November 21, 2019 11:44 PM

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