A British child was repatriated in a rescue mission from Syria Tuesday, as part of efforts to return dozens of unaccompanied minors trapped following the collapse of the so-called Islamic State.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the mission Wednesday, tweeting that he was “pleased we have been able to bring home a British child from Syria”.
“Safely facilitating the return of orphans or unaccompanied British children, where possible, is the right thing to do.”
The child, who can’t be identified for legal reasons, left Syria yesterday with a rescue team led by the British envoy in Syria, Martin Longden.
Last year, the UK committed to bringing home unaccompanied British minors, many of them orphans of people killed in the conflict, amid an outcry over the plight of children stranded in Syrian refugee camps. A small number are understood to have been returned so far.
Save the Children said last year there were more than 60 British children living in the camps, many of them aged under five, who lived in appalling conditions and had suffered severe psychological harm from their experiences.
Kevin Watkins, the charity’s chief executive tweeted his gratitude to the British government Wednesday for “providing this child with a safe haven.”
“Absolutely no child should be growing up in the conditions they are experiencing in camps in [northeast] Syria,” he wrote.
But while the UK has said it will bring home unaccompanied children, it’s taken a hard line on adults who travelled to join the caliphate, ignoring calls from their Kurdish captors – and the U.S. government – to take back British prisoners from the camps and prosecute them at home.
The British government is currently fighting a court ruling that would allow Shamima Begum, a London schoolgirl who left the UK aged 15 to join ISIS, to return to the UK and challenge a government order that stripped her of her citizenship. Begum’s three-week old baby died in a Syrian camp last year after the UK government turned down her pleas to be repatriated and revoked her British citizenship.