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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A young British child who experienced the “worst horrors of war” in Syria has been brought back to the UK from a camp holding suspected ISIS extremists.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the return of the child as part of efforts to bring back unaccompanied or orphaned children from Syria.
Charity workers in the camps say there are an estimated 60 British children among 10,000 foreign children held in 11 camps in the former ISIS stronghold in the north-east of the country.
“These are children who have experienced the worst horrors of war and bringing them home is the right thing to do,” he said in a statement.
Officials declined to give details of the child but the operation followed the return of three British orphans of ISIS-supporting parents in November last year. Earlier reports suggested that plans to bring back dozens of British children were blocked after several ministers raised concerns that some posed a security risk.“As I have said previously, we assess each case carefully,” said Mr Raab in a tweet.
Save the Children, a charity, said that it had been involved in the care of the child in the camp but declined to give further details for legal reasons.
Amjad Yamin, the charity’s advocacy director, said that Covid-19 had contributed to a crisis in the camps that had led to a rise in malnutrition and hunger among children living there.
“The conditions are not fit for children to continue to live in across the north-east camps,” he said.
Families were not able to feed children fresh food and vegetables and their ability to buy supplies had been hit by the continuing conflict and economic downturn.
“These children have suffered more from ISI than anyone in the world and have seen some awful things,” he said. “The only thing we can do is to bring them back so society can look after them. The only viable solution at the moment is to be rehabilitated and reintegrated.”
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 criticised by activists. One of the most high-profile travellers, Shamima Begum, is currently involved in a legal battle with the UK government over the withdrawal of her British passport.
Ms Begum, now aged 20, travelled to Syria in 2015 as a schoolgirl with two friends. She married a Dutch member of ISIS and had three children, all of whom died. She remains in a Syrian camp pending the outcome of the case.
Children brought back to the UK are taken into the care system and given anonymity as part of efforts at rehabilitation.
In the UK, more than 150 children have been taken from their parents since 2013 because of fears of radicalisation, parliament was told last year.
The former Middle East Minister, Andrew Murrison, confirmed that many would be taken into the care of extended family, foster carers and adopted with specialist support put in place.
They included two children, aged two and three, who were born in Syria after their parents met after travelling separately to Syria in around 2014.
The family returned to the UK after being held in an immigration detention camp in Turkey but the children were separated from them and put into foster care after they came back to the UK, according to court papers.
A UN-backed team monitoring abuses in Syria criticised the failure of foreign countries to repatriate women and children held in the overcrowded camps.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said that tens of thousands of women and children had been confined in the Al-Hawl camp since early 2019.
It said there were at least 75 unaccompanied foreign children from unspecified countries were being held at the Al-Hawl and Al-Roj camps who were particularly vulnerable. It said that medical services had been stripped to “skeletal” levels owing to Covid-19.
Updated: September 16, 2020 04:38 PM
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