The U.K. government will for the first time repatriate British children of Islamic State-affiliated parents who traveled to join ISIS in Syria.
Three children whose British parents were suspected ISIS members were handed over to a British delegation by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria on Thursday, November 21.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “We have facilitated their return home, because it was the right thing to do,” and that “These innocent, orphaned, children should never have been subjected to the horrors of war.”
Raab added that the children, who are aged between 7 and 10, “must be allowed privacy and given the support to return to a normal life.”
The co-chair of the Department of Foriegn relations for the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria Dr. Abdulkarim Omar said that “three British orphans from ISIS parents were handed over to a delegation representing the British Foreign Ministry.”
U.K. special envoy for Syria Martin Longden, who led the British delegation, thanked the local authorities in northeast Syria for their help in returning the children to the U.K.
Since the declaration of victory over ISIS’s “territorial caliphate” in March by the U.S.-led Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces, thousands of people believed to be affiliated with ISIS, including adults to traveled to Syria to join the group and their children, have remained in the detention of the authorities of the autonomous region in the northeast.
The recent invasion of northern Syria by Turkey and its affiliated Syrian rebel forces, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” led the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria to raise concerns that it would be unable to ensure the security of ISIS suspects currently in camps and prisons in the region.
Some countries have have repatriated orphan children or female ISIS members from Syria, including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Nigeria, the United States and Uzbekistan.
This is the first such repatriation by the U.K., whose government had so far refused to bring home either ISIS-affiliated adults or children. A plan to repatriate British orphans and unaccompanied minors from Syria was reportedly blocked in October by Home Secretary Priti Patel, after she and other senior officials deemed the children “security risks.”
Earlier this month Turkey began deporting “foreign terrorist fighters,” including more than 20 Europeans and an American.
According to the charity Save the Children more than 60 British children remain in northern Syria.