Bring home three 'London orphans' trapped in Syria, ministers urged

NIcholas Cecil
Orphans Hiba, Hamza and Amira

The Government was today urged to “bring home” three orphans found in a detention camp for Islamic State families.

Senior MPs were moved by a heart-rending report by the BBC about the plight of 10-year-old Amira, her sister Hiba, eight, and brother Hamza, about the same age as Hiba, who were discovered in the Kurdish-run Ain Issa camp in northern Syria. They are believed to be from London.

Their parents, older brother and two sisters are understood to have died, after first travelling to Syria five years ago, and the three children are now living with 21 other orphans.

They appeared deeply traumatised after experiencing the bombardment of Baghouz, one of the last IS areas to fall earlier this year. Speaking to the BBC, Amira, who still has a slight London accent, struggled to communicate in English but wrote out the words: “LaNDN uKeH” (London, UK).

She also told of her life in the capital before she was taken to Syria, explaining: “I go to the park, I go to grand-mum’s house, I go to the fun fair.”

Part of a letter written by 10-year-old Amira

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “These children can’t be held guilty for the crimes of their parents … we must bring them home.” Former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “On humanitarian and legal grounds Britain should facilitate the return of these British children.”

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, said there have been human rights violations against Kurds in Syria and the UK should be doing more — “and the Government should start by bringing these children home”.

Charities say other nations including France and Australia have repatriated women and children from detention camps. Ain Issa was hit during the Turkish military operation to take control of a swathe of northern Syria to prevent Kurdish forces joining up with Kurdish militants in Turkey.

Kurdish officials said yesterday nearly 800 relatives of foreign IS members had escaped from the camp during clashes nearby. Other reports said it was now largely empty, and BBC Middle East correspondent Quentin Sommerville suggested yesterday that the three London orphans were “safe”.

A Government spokeswoman said British children in camps are “innocent victims” and the UK “will examine every single case where we are asked for consular assistance”.