Syria: More than 60 British children trapped in northeast of country, Save the Children warns

21 October 2019, 09:06 | Updated: 21 October 2019, 11:05

More than 60 British children are trapped in northeast Syria after fleeing IS-held areas - around double the estimated figure previously reported.

The majority are younger than five years old and are suffering in dire conditions in desolate camps, Save the Children disclosed.

Others have been displaced yet again following the recent escalation in fighting.

Older children who lived under Islamic State have witnessed acts of brutality including beheadings and have been left with physical injuries and psychological needs following years of conflict and brutal repression.

Alison Griffin, Save the Children's head of conflict and humanitarian campaigns, said the children's lives "have been full of violence and fear" but that with the right care they can "bounce back".

She said: "They deserve that chance, no matter what they've been dragged into by the decisions of adults.

"For the British children among them we can and must give them the safety they need by bringing them to be cared for in the UK."

Last month, plans to send members of the SAS into Syria to bring back British children of IS fighters were being considered by the government.

The repatriation plans were being led by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and International Development Secretary Alok Sharma.

Home Office officials have since said the UK would help British orphans trapped in Syria after the Turkish invasion, but would not say exactly how children may be extracted from the country.

Mr Raab said that "assuming that they would represent no security threat", the UK government would "be willing to see them returned home if that can be done in a safe way given the situation on the ground."

Save the Children said that while the recent shift in the government's stance towards providing "safe passage" for British orphans to come to the UK is welcome, the vast majority of children are with their mothers and have been swept up in horrific events beyond their control.

The aid agency has been working to support children who fled IS-held areas, including foreign children, for more than two years.

It has also been pressing for foreign children to be given the best chance of recovery by being cared for in the safety of their home countries.

After assessing information received through a number of routes, including from outside Syria, Save the Children was able to confirm that there are more than 60 British children in the area.

Ms Griffin continued: "Children whose parents are alive are just as innocent as those who have been orphaned. All have been put through unimaginable horrors.

"The foreign secretary has said he wants to ensure 'innocents are not caught in the crossfire'. To play his part to achieve that, he needs to act now while there's still a window of opportunity and bring all the UK's children home".