UK has begun repatriating three British orphans by ISIS parents from Syrian region formerly under the terror group’s control

  • Orphans are set to return to the United Kingdom in ‘the coming days’
  • British government had previously ruled out repatriating British citizens
  • It is thought there are at least 30 British children currently held in Syria camps 

The British government is set to repatriate a group of three British orphans from Syrian territory formerly under the control of Islamic State (IS) in the coming days.

On Thursday, Dr Abdulkarim Omar, head of foreign relations in the Kurdish-led area of northern Syria, tweeted a photo of himself with the UK’s special representative for Syria Martin Longden, saying ‘three British orphans from ISIS parents were handed over to a delegation representing the British Foreign Ministry.’ 

The British government has previously ruled out repatriating British citizens trapped in former IS territory, including more than 30 children living in refugee camps and detention facilities run by the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The repatriation deal was announced by senior SDF official Dr Abdulkarim Omar on Twitter

A picture taken on October 17, 2019, shows a woman walking among tents at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp for the displaced where families of Islamic State (IS) foreign fighters are held, in the al-Hasakeh governorate in northeastern Syria.

Among the British citizens trapped in northeast Syria are Heba, Hamza and Amira, three children from London reported to be living in a Syrian refugee camp by the BBC. It has not been confirmed that they are the children being repatriated to the UK.

A picture taken on February 25, 2017 shows a general view of the tents in the al-Hol camp in northeast Syria, where thousands of people who lived in IS-controlled territory now live

London-based advocacy group CAGE welcomed the news of the repatriation, stating in a statement that they ‘hope that the Government will now start to comply with established international law, rather than playing politics with the lives of its citizens.’

Last month the Guardian reported that home secretary Priti Patel had blocked an operation to repatriate orphans trapped in formerly IS-held territory, with the fate of foreign fighters and their families becoming a growing diplomatic issue since the territorial defeat of the terrorist organisation’s proto-state in March 2019.  

The United Nations has called for countries to take responsibility for their citizens and repatriate them to potentially face prosecution in their home countries. 

Other European Union states have already started repatriating citizens, and it was reported by AFP that an 11-month-old boy of a Danish woman linked to IS group was repatriated from Syria on Thursday according the family’s lawyer.

“He arrived at the Copenhagen airport before lunch with his grandfather and one of his aunts who picked him up in a third country, neighbouring Syria,” lawyer Tyge Trier said.

Women buy food at the al-Hol camp in Syria, where thousands of displaced civilians live alongside captured Islamic State volunteers

Iraqi refugees pictured in the UN-run al-Hol camp in northeast Syria

According to local press reports, his mother was of Somali origin but born in Denmark.

She had travelled to Syria a few years ago and “lost her life on March 19 in Syria in a bomb attack in an IS-controlled area.”

The child, the first Syria orphan to have been returned to Denmark, had stayed at the Al-Hol camp in the northeast of the country. 

His grandparents, who are Danish citizens, will now take care of him. 

Controlled by Kurdish forces, the Al-Hol camp hosts nearly 70,000, including thousands of women affiliated with IS.    

According to Human Rights Watch  more than 1,200 foreign nationals have been repatriated from both Syria and Iraq to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Kosovo, and Turkey.

The Foreign Office has been approached for comment. 

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