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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: Authorities in the UK have authorized the repatriation of a woman and five children from detention camps in Syria, The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday.
It is only the second time since the ground war against Daesh ended four years ago that Britain has allowed an adult believed to have connections with the group to return.
A Syrian news agency said the woman and children, British nationals from several families, were delivered to UK officials on Saturday.
Robel Baho, a representative of the foreign relations department of the Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria, urged the international community to take steps to repatriate more of the foreign citizens who have been held in camps for up to five years.
More than 160 children and 50 women have been returned to France, while Germany has accepted the return of almost 100 women and children. The efforts of the UK have been much slower in comparison. Since 2019, the country has permitted the return of at least 10 British children, mainly orphans or unaccompanied minors, but only one adult, a woman who was repatriated in October 2022.
A human rights group and a former minister criticized UK authorities for their reluctance, in comparison with other Western countries, to repatriate citizens who lived under Daesh control.
Maya Foa, the head of Reprieve, an organization that assists British citizens detained in the camps in northeastern Syria, expressed relief that some people have been granted permission to return home, but frustration with the overall situation.
“British families are still being held in desert prison camps because of UK government inaction,” she told The Guardian.
“British children are growing up in dangerous tent cities patrolled by men with guns” Foa said, as she accused UK authorities of operating a “cruel, counterproductive, politically motivated policy.”
It is estimated that between 20 and 25 British women or families remain in the detention camps, along with others originally from the UK whose citizenship was revoked but are contesting that decision in British courts. The most prominent such case is that of Shamima Begum, who traveled from the UK to Syria in 2015, at the age of 15, to live under Daesh rule. Her case is under review by the Court of Appeal.
British officials say that repatriation is considered on a case-by-case basis but the details of how such decisions are made are often not disclosed, The Guardian said.
Conservative MP David Davis, a former Cabinet minister, criticized the UK for failing to accept the responsibility for dealing with its citizens to the same extent as allies such as Australia, Canada, France and Germany. He said that when appropriate, citizens who return could be prosecuted in UK courts for terror-related offenses.
Begum has said she would be willing to stand trial if she is allowed to return to the UK and authorities want to charge her for being a member of Daesh.
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