A British girl who was trafficked to Isis territory in Syria at the age of 12, repeatedly sexually abused and gave birth to a child conceived by rape at 15 is among dozens of women and children stranded in refugee camps.
Two-thirds (at least 63 per cent) of British women detained in northeast Syria were trafficked to the region, an investigation by human rights organization Reprieve revealed.
Many were transported or coerced into travelling to Syria as children and all were subjected to sexual and other forms of exploitation.
Those who escaped Isis territory and made their way to the Kurdish-held north are detained indefinitely without charge or trial in dire conditions in refugee camps where hundreds of people, mostly children, die a year, Reprieve found.
The organisation said the UK government is “systematically failing trafficking victims” by criminalising them, stripping them of their British citizenship and not bringing them home.
Public authorities also failed to protect at-risk women and girls from being trafficked to Syria in the first place and their experience mirrors that of Shamima Begum, who left the UK aged 15 to travel to Syria in 2015, Reprieve argued.
Andrew Mitchell, the former shadow international development secretary, said there was “no decency or justice in abandoning trafficking victims to face torture and the death penalty”.
“We cannot wash our hands of these Britons, abandoning them in ungoverned space,” he wrote in the foreword of Reprieve’s report.
The government will only accept the return of unaccompanied or orphaned children. Reprieve said it is aware of at least seven British women denied repatriation and at least two of them were under 18 when they arrived in Syria.
Reprieve said it has assisted the families of 24 vulnerable people, most of whom are from the UK, detained in the Roj and Al Hol camps since 2019 and its findings are based on research in northeastern Syria since 2017.