Senior MPs: Govt must repatriate British families in Syrian camps

July 29, 2020

Four senior Conservative MPs have called on the UK Government to repatriate British families held in detention camps in northern Syria.

The MPs, Andrew Mitchell, David Davis, Tom Tugendhat and Tobias Ellwood, addressed their concerns to the Attorney General, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary, in an open letter.

“We are concerned that their current indefinite detention in increasingly precarious Kurdish detention camps poses a significant security challenge to the UK, as well as significant harm to the children involved,” they wrote.

“We urge you to ensure that these individuals are brought back to the UK so that any adults accused of crimes can be fairly prosecuted with due process, and the children’s safety is ensured.”

“We believe that a policy of family separation would undermine any prospect of reintegrating returning children into UK society, while doing nothing to resolve the risk of losing track of the adults in north-east Syria, or secure justice for any crimes they may have committed.”

Many of the women in the camps were trafficked to Syria by older male relatives or abusive partners at a young age. The letter continues: “Whilst some of these young women may have criminal charges to answer, their cases undoubtedly sustained abuse and exploitation, and to leave them in indefinite detention, or to face torture and the death penalty in Assad-controlled Syria or Iraq, would fly in the face of the fact that they are also victims of trafficking and gender-based violence. The complex dynamics of their situation are best dealt with by the UK authorities, and not by leaving them in this unsustainable and precarious position.”

Reprieve Director Maya Foa said: “Many of these women are victims of serial abuse. Targeted because of their vulnerability, trafficked into Syria by coercive men, and now their own government has abandoned them. The government must urgently bring them back to the UK, and if there are charges to answer they must be dealt with by the British justice system.”

The letter was reported in the Times and on BBC Radio Four’s Six O’Clock News.