LONDON: The UK has been asked to repatriate citizens held in detention centers in Syria following reports that the security situation is deteriorating.
UK charity Reprieve, which works with women detained in camps alongside former Daesh members, urged the British government to take steps to bring home women it claims were coerced or trafficked into the country, many of whom have young children and are not members of the terrorist group.
Reprieve’s request follows similar ones from the US and the authorities in control of the camps.
“Britain is behind the curve significantly. Beyond being the right thing to do from a moral perspective, (repatriation) is also the right thing to do from a security perspective, both in terms of the camps and the countries themselves,” said Maya Foa, Reprieve’s director.
“Each time I receive a message (about the women in the camps), I fear it will be terrible news. I can’t sleep easy knowing they’re trapped somewhere their lives are at risk.”
An unnamed British woman being assisted by Reprieve told the Daily Telegraph that she fears for the wellbeing of her sister, who is in a camp in Syria, following reports of a military operation against Daesh in the camp.
“My sister and her children are terrified. The situation in the camps is getting increasingly dangerous and volatile,” she said.
“Every week we hear of more tent burnings and women and children being attacked by (Daesh) supporters. It’s terrifying, and the security personnel are struggling.”
This week, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) staged a large military operation against Daesh militants in Al-Hol camp in northern Syria.
The SDF said as well as discovering contraband and escape tunnels, 53 Daesh suspects were detained in the raid on Al-Hol, which is thought to house over 61,000 people.
Forty-five people have been killed in the camp so far this year, and acts of violence by Daesh supporters against others are commonplace.
“We renew our call on foreign countries to take back their citizens and give more humanitarian support to Al-Hol to improve the conditions and stability in the camp,” tweeted SDF Commander Mazloum Abdi.
It is unknown how many UK citizens are being held in Al-Hol, but 15-20 British women are thought to be in the smaller, more secure Al-Roj camp, many with children.
Al-Roj, though, is still said to be dangerous, with another woman telling Reprieve that a recent tent fire had left several children in shock and “nothing left except the poles of the tent” remaining.
John Godfrey, US special envoy for the anti-Daesh coalition, this week asked countries “to consider the repatriation of their own citizens in order to help relieve the burden on our local partners. This is an international problem that requires an international solution.”
The UK has so far repatriated orphaned children born to British parents in Iraq and Syria, but has taken a hard line on others, stripping several people of their citizenship, including London-born Shamima Begum, on grounds of national security.