Orphaned British children in Syria are being returned to UK, Raab confirms

21 November 2019, 20:33

Mr Raab said it was only "right" to allow orphaned British children back to the UK
Mr Raab said it was only "right" to allow orphaned British children back to the UK. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Repatriating British orphans whose parents died in Syria is "the right thing to do," says Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

On Thursday evening, the secretary of state confirmed the first children were being processed to return to the UK from Syria.

In a statement, the foreign secretary 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."

No further details can be released by Mr Raab's office at this stage.

The move comes after the Kurdish administration in the middle-eastern country tweeted that three children would be handed to the UK authorities on Thursday.

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."

Last month, Mr Raab told MPs that children rescued from war-torn northern Syria could be allowed to return to the UK as long as they pose "no security threat."

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis had previously raised concerns that vulnerable British children risked "turning into terrorists" if they were not returned from the middle-eastern country.

In a Commons debate, he told MPs that three of the estimated 60 British children believed to be in the region were orphans, adding that those who had not been orphaned "still deserve the United Kingdom's protection."

The conflict in Syria has created millions of refugees
The conflict in Syria has created millions of refugees. Picture: PA

Alison Griffin, head of humanitarian campaigns at Save The Children, supported the government's move, saying it "is 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. We should be proud of everyone who has worked to make this happen," she added.

"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."