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Ministers questioned on British children stranded in Syria

22 October 2019

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David Davis MP asked the Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Andrew Murrison MP, about the Government's policy on the 60 British children trapped in north-east Syria.

Yesterday it was reported that the estimated number of British children trapped in north-east Syria had doubled. Around 60 are now feared stranded after fleeing areas formerly held by Daesh. Some European countries, such as Belgium, are using the brief ceasefire agreed last week to evacuate children.

"The situation is fast moving"

The Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) told MPs that the Government was doing all it could to help the British children in Syria, but stressed the difficulties inherent in the situation. He reaffirmed that the Government has promised to support unaccompanied and orphaned children in Syria.

The Minister continued:

"Our priority clearly has to be unaccompanied children and orphans, and that's where our attention currently is. […] I have to tell my Rt Hon Friend that the situation is fast moving and getting access to camps and to people is extremely difficult. We hope that the ceasefire that he has spoken of will be sustained – it's due to expire tonight – and under those circumstances of course all things become possible."

"The time to act, Minister, is now"

Responding to the Minister, David Davis MP said that he welcomed the Government's pledge to repatriate orphans. However, he said that this did not go far enough to help the 57 children who are not orphans, and who are in the country through no fault of their own.

He continued:

"Some of our international allies have already used the 5-day ceasefire to fulfil their duties and repatriate their own children. If we do not do the same, British children will be left at the whim of a brutal dictator or a terrorist organisation or roving bands of militia. If we do nothing, we will be abandoning our moral obligations and risking those vulnerable children growing up in a war-torn area and maybe turning into terrorists themselves. The time to act, Minister, is now."

Image: Anas Alkharboutli/DPA/PA Images

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