UK repatriates orphaned, 4-year-old British girl from northeast Syria

The UK government confirmed on Wednesday that a 4-year-old British girl it called an orphan had just been repatriated from northeastern Syria.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The UK government confirmed on Wednesday that a 4-year-old British girl it called an orphan had just been repatriated from northeastern Syria.

“Pleased we have been able to bring home a British child from Syria,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a tweet on Wednesday.

“As I have said previously, we assess each case carefully. Safely facilitating the return of orphans or unaccompanied British children, where possible, is the right thing to do.”

The child, who was not identified, was picked by a British delegation on Tuesday at the Semalka border crossing that connects northeast Syria with the Kurdistan Region’s Duhok province to the east.

The Department of Foreign Relations of the Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES), co-headed by Abdulkarim Omar, said it handed over a 4-year-old girl of British origin to the delegation, led by Dr Martin Longden, the UK’s Special Envoy to Syria.

The British delegates were also received by the other AANES Foreign Relations co-head, Dania Ramadan, head of the administration’s Women’s Body Zainab Sarukhan, and Director of Relations at Semalka Crossing Baz Ahmed. The UK Special Envoy to Syria Martin Longden was accompanied by Melanie Smart, the British Deputy Consul General based in Erbil.

“Let me begin, by formally thanking you, Mr. Omar, and local authorities here in northeast Syria for all of your assistance,” Longden said in a video published the local administration. “The UK understands the situation in northeast Syria remains difficult. Despite of our great successes against the so-called caliphate, the threat from Daash (Islamic State) remains. So the UK through the global coalition will continue to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and our international partners against this menace.”

However, he said that the challenge was not just a military one.

“It requires a holistic international response and stability in northeast Syria requires us to support all of the communities here as they seek to rebuild their lives. And the UK has been one of the largest donors in this effort and we will continue to stand with the people of northeast Syria, including as we tackle the challenge of the covid-19 virus,” he continued. “But fundamentally, the instability across of all Syria speaks to the urgent need for a comprehensive and inclusive political solution. This remains the only way to end the conflict and the chaos and to unlock the road to serious recovery and reconstruction.”

Omar told local Hawar News Agency that his colleagues were “very happy in the Autonomous Administration in Northern and Eastern Syria with this meeting and this important visit for us and the United Kingdom, especially as we are partners in the coalition on the ground to eliminate of ISIS.”

“The United Kingdom has a very big role in resolving the crisis in Syria and making national and democratic change in accordance with international decisions,” he said.

Omar added that the two parties stressed the need to solve the crises in Syria “in a democratic and peaceful manner in accordance with international resolution, especially UN resolution 2254, with the participation of all components of the Syrian people.”

He also said that the two delegations had discussed the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on northeast Syria.

In November last year, the UK government also repatriated a number of orphaned children whose parents were affiliated to the Islamic State in Syria. 

Read more: Children of ISIS-affiliated parents held in Syria arrive in London 

At the time, Foreign Secretary Raab said, “They have settled into the home and appear to be as happy as they possibly could be given the circumstances of their return,” the paper reported, adding, “Speaking mostly in Arabic, they remembered little about their family and could not give their surname.”

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

Editing by John J. Catherine