UK begins to repatriate British orphans in Syria
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday that the United Kingdom had "facilitated" the return of British orphans whose parents had died in Syria "because it was the right thing to do".
"These innocent, orphaned, children should never have been subjected to the horrors of war," Raab said in a statement confirming the first children had begun to arrive back in Britain. "We have facilitated their return home, because it was the right thing to do," he added. "Now they must be allowed the privacy and given the support to return to a normal life."
Britain's Foreign Office did not release any further details.
In a message posted on social media, the de facto foreign minister of the Kurdish administration in northern Syria said three children had been handed over to British authorities on Thursday.
"Three British orphans from IS parents were handed over to a delegation representing the British Foreign Ministry," Abdulkarim Omar said on Twitter, referring to the Islamic State (IS) group.
The UK government had been under pressure to act following a report last month from the Save The Children charity said at least 60 British children were stranded in northeast Syria. Twice the number previously estimated, the NGO said many were aged under five and born to British parents suspected of having joined Islamic State and then died or fled fighting without them.
In a parliamentary debate in October, MPs had warned the vulnerable children risked "turning into terrorists" if they were not brought home from Syria.
Alison Griffin, of Save The Children, said Britain's decision was "transforming the lives of these innocent children who have been through terrible things that are far beyond their control".
She added: "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." (AFP)