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British children of IS recruits could be repatriated if mother stays in Syria

Families of Islamic State foreign fighters are held at Kurdish-run al-Hol camp [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2020

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The United Kingdom may repatriate four British children of Islamic State recruits from a Syrian camp if their mother does not return with them.

The United Kingdom's government may repatriate four British children from a Syrian camp if their mother, who joined Islamic State in 2014, does not return with them.

The British government said it will "urgently investigate" bringing the children back to the UK, ITV News reported, portentially clearing the way for dozens of other children in Syrian camps to be repatriated

There are currently 60 British children and 30 women being held by Kurdish authorities in northern Syria, a report by Human Rights Watch released in October stated.

The parents of the children, Mehak Alsam and Shahan Choudhury, have had their citizenship stripped by the United Kingdom.

Mehak Aslam's father, Mohamed Aslam, urged his daughter to sign the government's proposal, in which they promise to investigate the process of repatriating the children.

Mohamed told ITV News that although he saw the need for children to be raised by their parents, this isn't a possibility for his grandchildren.

"That's a hard reality but at least they'll be safe here – at least they'll be safe and secure," Mr Aslam said.

Aslam told ITV a fifth grandchildren was killed in Syria by an explosion.

"She passed away – I can never forgive them (her parents) for that," he said.

"They wanted to take this step for themselves – that's fine, that's their problem. Why involve the kids in this?"

Reports in the British media at the end of last year suggested that the UK was secretly planning to repatriate the wives and children of Islamic State group fighters.

According to a UK minister who spoke to the Sunday Times, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had already agreed to repatriate some of the minors.

But earlier that week, it was reported that UK Home Secretary Priti Patel blocked the initiative to rescue British orphans and unaccompanied minors home from Syria.

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Patel, along with defence secretary Ben Wallace and Chancellor Sajid Javid, voted against the operation to remove the children from camps in Syria during National Security Council meetings in October, sources revealed to the Guardian

The ministers' claim that the children posed "security concerns" led to the rescue operation - scheduled for late October - being called off at the last minute.

Earlier this year, the issue of British IS families took the media spotlight when former London schoolgirl Shamima Begum spoke to media outlets in a bid to secure her return.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked Begum's British citizenship in March, effectively rendering her stateless.

In August, similar action was taken against 23-year-old Jack Letts, better known as "Jihadi Jack" by the UK media.

The Kurdish forces have repeatedly urged Western countries to repatriate their citizens linked to IS, but until recently, many have refused to do so.

Read more: To avoid radicalisation, foreign children who lived under IS must be allowed home

A recent spate of repatriations, many of which were triggered by a Turkish decision to deport foreign IS members and suspects in Ankara's custody, has seen the return of IS recruits to some European countries.

Germany, Austria, France and Belgium have repatriated some orphaned children, while the United States has repatriated several women and their children.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kosovo have also repatriated dozens of women and children.

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