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UK ‘failed to protect’ women and children trafficked by ISIS, say MPs

25th Feb 2022
UK ‘failed to protect’ women and children trafficked by ISIS, say MPs

Hamed Chapman

A report by a committee of MPs has criticised the government for “failing to identify and protect” vulnerable British women and children who were trafficked by ISIS.

“Rather than honour its international obligations to potential victims of trafficking, the Government’s policy has been to punish them, including by refusing to repatriate them and stripping them of citizenship on what appears to be a blanket basis,” the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Trafficked Britons in Syria said.

Following a six-month inquiry, the Committee said it had “received compelling evidence that abandoning individuals in unlawful detention, in circumstances where many have been victims of abuse and are currently subjected to inhuman and degrading conditions, is likely to lead to their trafficking or re-trafficking by ISIS or similar groups.”

“The APPG’s inquiry has identified clear gaps in the UK Government response that allowed British citizens to be trafficked to Syria by ISIS. The state failed to protect these British women and children and is failing them still. We can and must do better, with an evidence-based approach that recognises them as victims of a criminal terrorist gang,” said Co-Chair Tory MP, Andrew Mitchell.

The so-called Islamic State has reportedly groomed and recruited hundreds of women and girls, who were forced into marriage, sexual slavery, domestic servitude, and other forms of exploitation over several years.

The most publicised of the many British victims has been the east London schoolgirl, Shamima Begum, who was controversially stripped of her nationality and denied the right to return to the country despite being born in the UK. An investigation by the charity Reprieve found that of the 800 Britons who travelled to ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq, and around 25 adults and 34 children are still in the region.

The report reveals “systemic failures by UK public bodies to prevent the trafficking of British nationals, with multiple missed opportunities to ensure vulnerable women and children were not trafficked by ISIS.”

It identifies three key operational failings by UK public bodies, including public authorities who repeatedly failed to protect vulnerable women and girls from being groomed and coerced into travelling to Syria by male partners and relatives, failures to notify parents and guardians and failure to prevent travel at airports and borders by police and security services.

“Despite the UK’s legal commitments and global reputation as a leader in the fight against human trafficking, the APPG report concludes that the UK Government has failed to fulfil its obligations to identify, investigate, and protect potential victims of trafficking,” the MPs said.

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