British Children: Syria

22nd October 2019

Andrew Mitchell questions the Government on 60 British children trapped in north-east Syria.

May I just pin the Minister down on two key points? First, do the Government accept in principle that these children should be repatriated and are a British responsibility? Secondly, do they accept that, subject to not putting British officials in harm’s way, such repatriation could and should take place, possibly with the help of UNICEF?

I thank my right hon. Friend. Certainly we would want to work with agencies. If he will forgive me, I am not going to specify which agencies. He will know, as he has been Secretary of State in the relevant Department, why we do not want to specify which particular partners we are working with in this particular instance. On the protection of our own people, we are not going to put civil servants at risk in this. That would be unreasonable. We have a duty of care towards them.

In terms of repatriation in principle, I think my right hon. Friend is tempting me to make commitments in a piece that is fast-moving. I would refer to the point I made in response to the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) about the legality of this and the separation of family members. It would be wrong in principle to separate family members, but, as I said in my opening remarks, we consider each case on its merits. These are all individual cases, and it would be very wrong to give a blanket assessment of the position that the Government would take.

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