UK facing pressure from Washington to repatriate children of former IS fighters
British authorities are under fresh pressure from their American allies to repatriate its citizens who travelled to Syria to join IS.
The US Assistant Attorney-General, John Demers, said inaction by America’s allies risked forcing Kurdish authorities to release their foreign detainees.
“We’re asking you to take responsibility for your citizens,” Mr Demers said in an interview with ITV News, addressing the governments of other nations.
“If there’s a prosecutable case we’ve chosen to prosecute those cases. If there’s not, you have to find some other way for taking responsibility for those individuals.”
Demers continues: “But where they are now is an area that may not be stable for very long and if it’s not, then the concern is that these individuals will get out and go to a different battlefield or come back to their countries with malicious intent.”
The Assistant Attorney-General said he understands why many politicians might be reluctant to repatriate citizens from Syria.
“At the end of the day bringing terrorists into the country is never a popular political move and one of the things you have to be careful of if you are bringing them into your country is that you have a way to deal with the threat, either by prosecuting that individual or otherwise.”
Meanwhile ITV News has returned to Kosovo to hear from the families of jihadists who have moved their after living in the ISIS stronghold, Baghouz.
Although Pristina in Kosovo feels like home for Muadh Demolli, he cannot forget the warzone where he has spent most of his short life.
He is around three-and-a-half years old, though no one can say for sure because his birth records did not survive his journey from Syria.
Nor did his mother, his father and his two brothers, who were killed during the bombing. His sister died later apparently from starvation aged just a few weeks old.
Muadh learns quickly – he appears to have adapted well to his new life in Europe, where he has lived with his grandparents since April – but he forgets slowly and is still haunted by what he witnessed while living under Islamic State.
Prompted by his grandmother during an interview with ITV News, Muadh describes one of the gunmen he remembers from Syria, saying: “He shot with a Kalashnikov.”
And he innocently recalls the airstrikes that became the background noise of his life as a toddler: “There were planes there in Syria.”
“The boy is doing good” insists Idriz Ramadani, Muadh’s grandfather, who ITV News followed in April as he searched for his grandson after hearing the government of Kosovo had unexpectedly flown home some of the families of jihadists who had gone to Syria.
Although Muadh was born in Syria, he is recognised as a citizen of Kosovo.
“They [government officials] said ‘yes, your grandchild has arrived from Syria’ so I said I wanted to take the child and take care of him. I took him home and he is much better now.”
“He wakes up at night, he cries, he mentions everyone by their names – his father, mother, brothers and sister – and he didn’t sleep last night so I took him for a walk around the flat.”
“He tells the story that his mother died, and we buried her – the same for his brothers and a sister. He explains everything to us but not to strangers.”
Muadh is just one of 110 Kosovars who were taken from the huge al-Hawl displacement camp in north-east Syria, weeks after the fall of the final ISIS stronghold, Baghouz.
The decision by the government of Kosovo contrasts with the approach of Britain and some other European nations, which have so far refused to bring their citizens home from Syria.
UK authorities have revoked the citizenship of some British nationals, including Shamima Begum, who travelled to Syria from east London as a 15-year-old alongside two classmates.