Islamic State: British child rescued from Syria, foreign secretary says

Middle East
Al-Hol displacement camp in Syria Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Save the Children said around 60 British children are trapped in Syria

The UK has rescued a British child from Syria as part of efforts to return unaccompanied minors stranded amid the fallout of the Islamic State conflict.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said repatriating the child was “the right thing to do”.

He said each case of orphans or unaccompanied children trapped in Syria was assessed “carefully”.

Save the Children said some 60 British children were in Syrian refugee camps, many aged under five.

Many of the younger children are born in Syria to British parents and have never lived in the UK.

The recent repatriation was first reported by Sky News, which said a team left the Middle Eastern country with the child on Tuesday.

Mr Raab said on Twitter: “Pleased we have been able to bring home a British child from Syria. As I have said previously, we assess each case carefully.

“Safely facilitating the return of orphans or unaccompanied British children, where possible, is the right thing to do.”

Save the Children said many of the children fled areas controlled by IS and have endured “dire conditions” in camps – adding that Covid-19 was now present in both camps where the charity works.

“It’s hard to contain the disease in a place where social distancing is not possible,” Save the Children’s Sonia Khush told BBC News, calling it “a recipe for unfolding disaster”.

The process of repatriation takes many months, Ms Khush said – although the charity is not directly involved in the negotiations, only in helping prepare the child for resettlement in the UK.

She said they tried to focus on the “positive” elements of repatriation – the opportunity to live more comfortably, go to school, enjoy typical childhood experiences “like riding a bike, for example”.

“But the children do have fears,” said Ms Khush. “They have been through so much in their short lives already.”

Often children have been repeatedly displaced as fighting escalates across the country.

“They have a lot of questions about what’s going to happen to them – and it’s quite difficult to take them away from what, for them, is a home,” she explained.

“It’s difficult too for the children left behind. They have been each other’s family.”

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