UK repatriates British child from Syria

Rights groups estimate there is roughly 60 British children stranded in refugee camps in northeast Syria. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 16 September 2020

UK repatriates British child from Syria

  • The child was repatriated from a Syrian Democratic Forces camp in northeast Syria
  • Save the Children said last year that more than 60 British children were stranded in Syria

LONDON: Britain said on Wednesday it had repatriated a child from Syria, one of dozens of British children thought to be trapped in the war-torn country.
British officials have previously faced criticism for refusing to help nationals including children to return home after they or their parents were accused of joining Daesh.
“Pleased we have been able to bring home a British child from Syria,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter.
“Safely facilitating the return of orphans or unaccompanied British children, where possible, is the right thing to do.”
The foreign ministry declined to provide further details, citing reporting restrictions on cases involving minors.
Save the Children said in a report last year that more than 60 British children were stranded in northeast Syria.
The UK has taken a strict approach, stripping citizenship from some of those suspected of traveling to support the Daesh.
Among the most high profile cases is that of Shamima Begum who was 15 when she and two other schoolgirls from east London left to join the jihadist group in 2015.
She claims to have married a Dutch convert soon after arriving in Daesh-held territory who subsequently died.
Begum, now 20 and marooned in a refugee camp, was discovered nine months pregnant in another camp in February last year, and her newborn baby died soon after she gave birth.
Two of her other children also died under Daesh rule.
Britain annulled her UK citizenship on national security grounds after an outcry led by right-wing media but Begum has mounted a legal challenge of the decision.
The UK supreme court is set to decide on whether she can return to Britain to fight the case in court.

Related


Law to protect soldiers would be ‘dangerous’ to UK forces’ reputation, PM warned

Updated 18 September 2020

Law to protect soldiers would be ‘dangerous’ to UK forces’ reputation, PM warned

  • “This bill would be a stain on the country’s reputation,” military and political figures said
  • “To create de facto impunity for such crimes would be a damaging signal for Britain to send to the world,” the letter added

LONDON: A bill that aims to repress claims against British troops was “dangerous and harmful” to the reputation of the UK’s armed forces and the safety of its personnel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned.
Military and political figures have encouraged the British premier to reconsider the “ill-conceived” legislation, which will return to the House of Commons next week, The Times reported.
Former head of the armed forces , Field Marshal Charles Guthrie, ex-defense secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, and former attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, sent a letter to Johnson on Thursday sharing their concerns about the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, the British newspaper said.
The draft law seeks to limit false and old allegations against personnel through measures including a statutory presumption against criminal prosecution five years after an alleged crime.
Compelling new evidence must be presented, and the attorney-general’s consent secured in order for the presumption to be overruled. The bill is only applicable to overseas operations.
In the letter, Guthrie and other signatories said: “We find it disturbing that the government’s approach … creates a presumption against prosecution of torture and other grave crimes (with only rape and sexual violence excepted) after five years.
“We believe that the effective application of existing protocols removes the risk of vexatious prosecution. To create de facto impunity for such crimes would be a damaging signal for Britain to send to the world.
“This bill would be a stain on the country’s reputation. It would increase the danger to British soldiers if Britain is perceived as reluctant to act in accordance with long-established international law,” they added.
Britain’s most senior military judge had warned defense secretary, Ben Wallace, that the legislation could leave British troops more likely to face prosecution for war crimes at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, The Times revealed in June.
As the legislation sets out protections relating only to domestic crimes, it could encourage police and prosecutors to focus on pursuing war-crime charges, Judge Jeffrey Blackett said.
The Ministry of Defense has said that the legislation “strikes the right balance” between the rights of victims and “fairness to those who defend this country.”