Patel did not block rescue of British orphaned refugees, says Raab

Priti Patel (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Priti Patel (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

HOME secretary Priti Patel did not block the rescue of British orphans and unaccompanied minors from Syria, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said.

According to reports, during a National Security Committee meeting last month Patel raised objection to bringing British children from Syria citing security reasons.

When quizzed about this by the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday (17), Raab said: “That’s not quite right, is it? You’re relying on a leaked report from an NSC meeting.”

He added: “The Government speaks with one voice, and we’ve made it very clear that when you’ve got orphaned children or unaccompanied minors and there’s no security threat, then of course we will seek to repatriate them to this country.

“But there are huge challenges in operating on the ground in Syria and elsewhere.”

On being asked if the government will try to bring unaccompanied minors back to the UK, he said: “Absolutely.”

Reacting to reports of Patel’s intervention to block the rescue operation, Save the Children, which has officials working in north-east Syria, said ministers should not be “playing politics” with children’s lives.

James Denselow, head of conflict advocacy at the organisation, told the Guardian: “This is purely political. It’s a case of having ownership at a sensitive time in an election period over an issue that does not have 100% public sentiment behind it, but without that these people will live in limbo with all the consequences that come with it.”

Denselow added: “These are children who have been let down by irresponsible parents and not cared for by an irresponsible state.”

Recently, lieutenant-general Sir Graeme Lamb, former director of special forces and commander of the field army who led British forces in the Iraq war, said children should not be made to suffer for the choices their parents made.

“Children should not be punished for their parents’ actions and decisions – most were forcibly taken to Isis territories, or born into them, and made to live according to its hardline doctrine,” he was quoted as saying by the Guardian.