The United Kingdom will repatriate a “handful” of orphaned or abandoned children of British jihadists from Syria, The Sun reports.
The kids will be placed under the “supreme legal guardianship” of the High Court, meaning that the government will take care of them so that they don’t get exposed to extreme Islam and pose a threat to national security.
Currently, five children whose British parents are either dead or missing have been tracked and identified pending return to the UK, according to the report. Their citizenship status is unclear; there has been no word on whether there are further cases in the pipeline either.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously shown sympathy with the children of British Daesh* suspects from Syria, saying the government “should help” them return to the UK where possible. In November, three orphans were brought back to the UK from Kurdish custody.
“These innocent, orphaned, children should never have been subjected to the horrors of war," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said at the time. “We have facilitated their return home, because it was the right thing to do.”
The issue of how to deal with foreign citizens who joined the likes of Daesh in Syria and Iraq has long plagued Western governments. Thousands of suspected foreign fighters and their children are being held by Kurdish forces in impromptu detention camps in north-east Syria, which has been liberated from jihadists.
A US government report issued last August put their number at 2,000, well below the 4,000 estimate by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (IDF), who helped drive Daesh out of that part of Syria. Some 70,000 women and children previously associated with the self-proclaimed caliphate remain in Kurdish camps. According to the charity Save the Children, at least 60 of those children are British.
Western governments, including the US and the UK, have largely resisted Kurdish calls to take them back, citing legal and logistical roadblocks.
One of the most widely-publicised cases was that of “Daesh bride” Shamima Begum, a British national who left the UK at 15 to live under the self-proclaimed caliphate. Begum's attempt to return to the UK provoked public debate over whether former terrorists or those associated with terror groups should be allowed back.
Begum, now 20, was stripped of her British citizenship in February 2019 and has been living in a refugee camp.
“Allowing her, and indeed other terrorists, back into the UK to pursue an appeal would create a national security risk that cannot be fully mitigated, even with the diversion of significant resources,” former minister Sadjid Javid, who revoked her citizenship, said this month. Begum successfully overturned the decision in court.
*Daesh, aka Islamic State/ISIS, is a terror group outlawed in Russia, the UK, the US, and many other countries.