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25th Oct 2019

Why bringing British children home from Syria is the most British thing we can do

What with the continuing chaos surrounding Brexit, it’s rather easy to take your eye off what is going on elsewhere in the world

Dom Joly

What with the continuing chaos surrounding Brexit, it’s rather easy to take your eye off what is going on elsewhere in the world

Somehow, we have all become so sucked up into our national identity crisis that we have become positively myopic to everything else.

Right now, the situation in north east Syria is desperate. There are over 800,000 people in acute need and Save the Children have said there are over 60 British children, who have fled ISIS-held areas who have been swept up into horrific events far beyond their control. These children’s short lives have been full of violence and fear. They have witnessed acts of brutality like beheadings and are now either stranded in desolate camps battling hunger and disease or have been displaced following the most recent escalation of violence.

I believe that the British government should be doing absolutely everything that they possibly can to bring British children back to Britain. And whilst this week MPs from all sides have spoken passionately about getting orphans and unaccompanied children back, very little has been said about the other children. There is a closing window of opportunity for the Government to step up and do the right thing – for every British child stuck there.  Words are all well and good but we need action and we need it fast.

I grew up in Lebanon in the middle of the civil war that ravaged that country in the 1970s. I know from personal experience the psychological toll that a childhood in that sort of environment takes on a child. I remember the terror of being under bombardment, the traumatic fear of random roadblocks and executions, the constant, nagging uncertainty and instability of your existence. This kind of trauma in childhood stays with you, way into later life eating away at one like a virulent cancer.

As an ambassador for Save The Children I visited the Zaatari refugee camp on the Syrian Jordanian border. I met kids who had pretty much spent their entire life under canvas with no proper place to call home. These children are no different from our own- they just want to play and learn and grow up to be doctors and teachers, football players…even comedians. That was several years ago and most of those kids are still there.

The children in north east Syria just need the chance to be rescued from their current environment and we can at least make this happen for the British children among them. We need to make sure that they have the chance to recover and surrounded by the right care and support. Other countries have brought children home and there is a brief window right now for us to do the same.  What seems to have been forgotten in all of this is that these children are innocent, they have already been through hell and they must not be punished for the actions of their parents.

It’s time that we, as a country, started to take a lead in re-establishing our image as a decent, compassionate nation. Rescuing every last British children from a situation and nightmare that is not of their own making, seems a good place to start.

Support Save the Children’s petition asking the Government to act now and bring British children back from north east Syria.