London, November 21, 2019 — The International Rescue Committee welcomes the UK government’s decision to take the first vital step towards repatriating vulnerable British citizens who have been caught up in the conflict in Syria and left trapped in the camps of Al Hol and Roj.
In these camps there are known to be at least 60 British children - including orphans and those separated from their families - who are in desperate need of assistance.
With little support to help them overcome the brutality they were subjected to under ISIS, they remain surrounded by violence in the middle of a war zone, living in conditions that would cause outrage if they were found in the UK.
The IRC welcomes the news that they will be brought home, and urges the government to bring all British families back to the UK.
It also urges other governments to do the same so as to ensure that all 8,089 foreign children living in the camps in Syria are returned to their countries of origin.
Misty Buswell, Regional Director for Policy and Advocacy in the Middle East, said:
“The UK government’s decision to bring home children from northeast Syria represents an important first step in Britain recognising the role it is duty bound to play in protecting some of its most vulnerable young citizens. These children are in urgent need of support and when they return to the UK they will now, at last, be able to get it.
“Having lived through atrocities that no child should ever have to witness, we commend the British government for reversing its decision and choosing to bring these children home, but they must now commit to bringing all 60 British children and their families back to the UK. Children should never be punished for the decisions or actions of their parents and it is now vital that the government makes the most of this momentum and begins the repatriation of all of its citizens who are trapped in this ongoing conflict zone.
“However, it is the responsibility of all governments to repatriate their citizens and we hope that the UK’s decision to repatriate these children will inspire other nations to do the same. In total, there are known to be 8,089 children of more than 40 nationalities in northeast Syria. Over 90 per cent are under the age of 12 – over 50 per cent under the age of five. With the war now entering its ninth year, this means there are well over 4,000 children who have grown up knowing nothing but the violence and brutality of ISIS, who urgently need support. Regardless of their parent’s actions or what they are perceived to have done, these children are victims of this conflict like all other children, and governments must repatriate them as a matter of urgency to ensure that they are given the opportunity to begin their lives anew.”
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.