More than 60 British children trapped in North East Syria
Save the Children, 21st October
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The number of British children trapped in North East Syria after fleeing ISIS-held areas is more than 60, Save the Children can disclose. This is around double previous estimates that have been reported in the media.
The children, many of them under five years old, are enduring dire conditions in desolate camps or have been displaced yet again following the recent escalation in fighting.
Older children who lived under ISIS have witnessed appalling acts of brutality, including beheadings, and been left with physical injuries and psychological needs from years of conflict and brutal repression.
Alison Griffin, Save the Children’s Head of Conflict and Humanitarian Campaigns, said:
“Children in Syria who have fled ISIS-held areas are innocent. Their short lives have been full of violence and fear but with the right care they can bounce back, recover and amaze us. They deserve that chance, no matter what they’ve been dragged into by the decisions of adults.
“For the British children among them we can and must give them the safety they need by bringing them to be cared for in the UK.”
Save the Children has been working to support children who fled ISIS-held areas, including foreign children, for over two years. At the same time the aid agency has been pressing for foreign children to be given the best chance of recovery by being cared for in the safety of their home countries. In the course of this work Save the Children has assessed information received through a number of routes, including from outside Syria, to be able to confirm that there are more than 60 British children in the area.
The aid agency says that while the recent shift in the Government’s stance towards providing ‘safe passage’ for British orphans among them to come to the UK is welcome, the vast majority of the children are with their mothers and all have been swept up in horrific events beyond their control.
Ms. Griffin continued, “Children whose parents are alive are just as innocent as those who have been orphaned. All have been put through unimaginable horrors. The Foreign Secretary has said he wants to ensure ‘innocents are not caught in the crossfire’. To play his part to achieve that, he needs to act now while there’s still a window of opportunity and bring all the UK’s children home”
"The camps with the majority of foreign women and children have not yet been reached by fighting and remain under the control of the Kurdish authorities. The time to act is now.”
Save the Children’s team in Syria recently spoke to a British mother with two young children – a baby and an under-five – in one of the camps. She told us she knew of at least 15 other British children in the same camp.
When they arrived in Syria her sister, who is now a teenager, had no idea where they were going or what they were doing there. The mother told the aid agency how for years she had to hide her sister away to save her from being forced to marry.
The mother said she and her family made a traumatic escape from ‘hell’ in Baghouz. She, along with her children and sister, ended up sleeping in the open desert as they fled. Her youngest baby was close to death with bronchiolitis when they arrived at the camp earlier this year.
She accepted that she would face investigation in the UK but said she felt that in Syria no-one would ever hear her case. She told us that she was scared to be in the camps and very afraid of what would happen to her children.
Save the Children continues to provide vital support to children and families in North East Syria. In Al Hol and Roj camps the aid agency is running child friendly spaces to give children somewhere to play and be children in the care of specialist teams. Save the Children is also providing case management and educational support.
In Al Hasakeh city and Areesha camp, the aid agency is also responding to the new displacement caused by the recent escalation. Save the Children is providing emotional and nutritional support, as well as referring children with severe needs to get the help they need.
Notes to Editors
- There have been reports of some European countries preparing to repatriate their citizens from North East Syria
- Around 9,500 children from more than 40 nationalities from around the world were living in Al Hol, Ein Issa and Roj camps before the start of the military operations in Northeast Syria on 9th October
- On Tuesday 15th October Foreign Secretary Domic Raab said in an answer to an urgent question in Parliament that “we are looking in relation to orphans and unaccompanied minors to whether they can be provided safe passage to return, because as he said it is utterly unfair that such innocents should be caught in the crossfire.”
- Save the Children has launched a petition calling on the UK Government to take urgent steps to repatriate British children from North East Syria
- Donate to Save the Children’s Syria appeal