UK

Syria conflict: British orphans returned to UK

IS prisoners Image copyright Getty Images

A group of orphaned British children caught up in the war in Syria have returned to the UK.

The children, who are all from one family, are the first to be repatriated from the area of Syria once controlled by the Islamic State (IS) group.

The Foreign Office was asked by the High Court to help them return.

The court heard they arrived in London on Friday and were in good spirits, having met with members of their family who they had breakfast with.

They were brought back to the UK at the request of relatives after they were made wards of court - meaning they were placed under supervision and protection of the High Court.

The judge said it had been a complex and difficult operation.

Mr Justice Keehan said the children had now gone to their family homes where they appeared settled and as happy as possible in difficult circumstances.

Their return comes after pressure on the government - and with calls from aid agencies for all British children who survived the fall of IS to be returned to the UK.

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the "innocent" children should "never have been subjected to the horrors of war".

Mr Raab added: "We have facilitated their return home because it was the right thing to do.

"Now they must be allowed the privacy and given the support to return to a normal life."

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Media captionIs this the end for Islamic State?

The fate of foreign IS fighters and other foreigners caught up in the conflict has been a key issue since the defeat of the extremist group was declared in March 2019.

IS once controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq.

The UK had been reluctant to take back citizens from the area.

Other countries including France, Denmark, Norway and Kazakhstan have brought children home.

The United Nations has said countries should take responsibility for their own citizens unless they are to be prosecuted in Syria in accordance with international standards.

Save The Children said the repatriation was a "triumph of compassion in the face of cruelty," and that it would allow the youngsters to live full, happy lives.

But Alison Griffin, head of humanitarian campaigns at the children's charity, said more work was needed.

She added: "There are still as many as 60 British children that remain stranded in appalling conditions and Syria's harsh winter will soon begin to bite.

"All are as innocent as those rescued today and our very real fear is that they won't all survive to see the spring.

"They must all be brought home before it is too late."

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