Sir David Davis Urgent Question reported in the Times and Yorkshire Post.


As reported in the Times:

The government is under pressure to join other countries in repatriating children of Islamic State jihadists who are stranded in north-eastern Syria.

Andrew Murrison, the Middle East minister, revealed that the return of orphans and unaccompanied children who were stuck in refugee camps was regarded as a priority.

However, MPs said that only three of the estimated 60 British children in Syria were orphans and the government should have used a recent ceasefire between Turkey and Syria to bring them all home.

Russia has brought back between 145 and 200 on organised flights and several central Asian countries have taken back children. In May Kazakhstan organised the return of more than 230 of its citizens, most of them children, from camps in Syria.

At an urgent question session in parliament yesterday the Conservative MP David Davis said: “Some of our international allies have already used the five-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.”

The refugees, many of whom are under five, are mostly living in the al-Roj and al-Hawl displacement camps.

Dr Murrison said: “Our priority clearly has to be unaccompanied children and orphans, and that is where our attention currently is. The situation is fast moving and getting access to camps and to people is extremely difficult. We hope that the ceasefire will be sustained and under those circumstances of course all things become possible.”

A spokesman for Save the Children, which is caring for many of the children abroad, said: “The government is clearly listening but seems to be taking small steps in the right direction when it needs to be making big strides. These children need to be brought to safety now, not next week or next month.”

The fate of British Isis babies was highlighted after the birth and subsequent death of the son born to Shamima Begum, who ran away at 15 to join Isis in 2015 and was discovered in al-Hawl camp by The Times in February.

Heavily pregnant, she had pleaded to come home to Britain with her baby but Sajid Javid, home secretary at the time, revoked her citizenship. Labour said the child’s death was the result of a “callous and inhumane” decision by the government, while Save the Children said the death had been avoidable.

As reported in the Yorkshire Post:

Yorkshire MP and former Tory minister David Davis has warned vulnerable British children risk “turning into terrorists” if they are not brought home from Syria.

Haltemprice and Howden MP Mr Davis told the Commons that three of the estimated 60 British children thought to be in the region are orphans, adding that those who have not been orphaned “still deserve the United Kingdom’s protection”.

He argued that many are aged under five and “should not be punished for their parents’ mistakes”, before adding that some of the UK’s international allies have used a ceasefire to repatriate their own children.

Asking an urgent question in the Commons yesterday, Mr Davis said: “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’ll be abandoning our moral obligations and risking those vulnerable children to growing up in a war-torn area and maybe turning into terrorists themselves.

“The time to act, minister, is now.”

Foreign Office minister Andrew Murrison said the UK’s approach is informed by “compassion and care” for individual cases, adding the priority was unaccompanied children and orphans.

He said he did not recognise the figure of 60 mentioned by Mr Davis, but said the UK is talking to agencies in order to “better understand the situation”.

Mr Murrison added: “Of course we will do all we can.”

He said accessing camps and people is “extremely difficult” and outlined a hope that the ceasefire in north-east Syria will be sustained, adding: “Under those circumstances, of course, all things become possible.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said the Government should consider repatriating British mothers who travelled to Syria to face justice in the UK, if that is what is best for their children.

She added: “It is all very well for some to say that ‘the sins of the father, and in many cases the mother, should be visited on the children’. But that is not who we are as a country or a people.

“Instead, I believe we have a moral duty and a civic duty to ensure that these British children are brought back to the UK to receive shelter, care and the counselling that they need.

“Even if that necessitates bringing back their mothers to face justice in our courts, for the crimes that they may have committed.”

Responding, Mr Murrison said: “These are innocent minors. They are vulnerable people and we must do what we can for them.

“It is entirely wrong to associate them with what their parents may have done.”

Former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said: “It has seemed to me over a period of time that we have to recognise an international responsibility to take back even those who have been indoctrinated and radicalised in order to protect the children.”

The Independent MP for North East Bedfordshire added: “We should have the resources in order to be able to deal with them as well as to protect the children who are the only innocents by and large in this situation.”

Responding, Mr Murrison said the Government is trying to identify British children in refugee camps, adding: “In particular, trying to enumerate those who might be considered to be vulnerable in this piece.

“What I said earlier is we are approaching this on a case by case basis. Genuinely that is the case, it is not easy because our access is obviously imperfect.

“I hope very much that if this ceasefire holds, then we will be able to do more than perhaps we have been able to do up to this point.”