UK Nationals in Northern Syria

8th October 2019

Following the Government statement on the US troop withdrawal from northern Syria, Andrew Mitchell calls on the UK to take responsibility for the approximately 40 of our nationals in the region, 30 of whom are children, who if left in this ungoverned space could pose a real danger to this country and others.

Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP speaking in the House of Commons, 8 October 2019, N Syria

My right hon. Friends and the right hon. Lady spoke for the entire House on the important issue raised in this urgent question. Does the Minister understand that Britain must take responsibility for its own nationals and not use some device to evade that responsibility, nor must we leave them swilling around in ungoverned space where they can do ill in countries less well governed than this, but where they are also a danger to the people in this country? Does he understand that we may well be talking about approximately 40 people, of whom maybe as many as 30 are children? Will he raise this matter immediately with the Foreign Secretary and with his colleagues in Government to see whether we can get a change of policy and an urgent resolution of that particular issue?

My right hon. Friend is obviously an expert in such matters. There are two categories of individual: those in detention camps and those in al-Hawl, who are, in the main, the families of detainees. It is important that justice is served as close as possible to any alleged crime, and we are taking that forward with those in the region. As for the minors, it is the Government’s intent that innocents should be protected at all times. He will appreciate the difficulties that that poses in the context of Syria, but we are quite clear that minors need to be handled properly and humanely, and that will be our intent.