‘Grievous irresponsibility’: Conservative UK ministers block British IS orphans rescue operation from Syria

‘Grievous irresponsibility’: Conservative UK ministers block British IS orphans rescue operation from Syria
Home secretary Priti Patel was allegedly among cabinet hardliners who deemed children as young as six ‘security concerns’, vetoing the rescue of British children stranded in Syria after IS’ fall.
3 min read
17 November, 2019
Sajid Javid (L) and Priti Patel R allegedly vetoed the rescue plan [Getty]
The UK home secretary Priti Patel has blocked an initiative to rescue British orphans and unaccompanied minors home from Syria, where their parents were involved with the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

The news comes in spite of British media reports last month that the government was planning to secretly repatriate the more than 60 British children and 30 women being held by Kurdish authorities in northern Syria.

Patel, along with defence secretary Ben Wallace and chancellor Sajid Javid, voted against the operation to extricate the children from camps in Syria during National Security Council meetings in October, sources revealed to the Guardian. 

The ministers’ claim that the children posed “security concerns” led to the rescue operation - scheduled for late October - being called off at the last minute.

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The allegations would make the UK one of only two countries who have so far rejected the return of child citizens to their home country after the fall of IS.

Among the more than 60 British minors, at least three orphans had been identified by British authorities. A safe route to the UK, via northeast Syria and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, had also been planned for the minors’ escape.

The orphans are reportedly, 6, 8, and ten years old, according to journalist Louisa Loveluck.

The security situation has deteriorated in northeast Syria since late October, casting doubt on whether a rescue can be reorganised in the near future, charity Save the Children said.

Further to the rescue plan, sources also revealed that a number of local councils in the UK had offered the necessary care and reintegration programme for the youngsters to return to the UK.

The charity Save the Children, which works with IS children in northeast Syria, described the ministers’ refusal to the rescue plan as “grievous irresponsibility,” saying that “playing politics” with children’s lives was unacceptable.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and foreign secretary Dominic Raab have reportedly been in favour of bringing British families, including wives of IS fighter, back to the UK.

In September, Patel said she was "simply not willing to allow anybody who has been an active supporter or campaigner of ISIS in this country."

Earlier this year, the issue of Britain's IS families took the media spotlight when former London schoolgirl Shamima Begum spoke to media outlets in a bid to secure her return.

Former home secretary Sajid Javid revoked Begum's British citizenship in March, effectively rendering her stateless.

In August, similar action was taken against 23-year-old Jack Letts, better known as "Jihadi Jack" by the UK media.

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