UK 'knowingly exposes children to torture' in Syria camps

UK 'knowingly exposes children, women to torture' in Syria camps: report
3 min read
14 October, 2021
The British government is 'knowingly' exposing children and women in Syrian refugee camps to torture, inhumane and degrading treating, and risk of death by refusing to repatriate them, a new report finds.
An estimated 60,000 people are being held at the Al-Hol and Roj camps [Getty]

The British government is “knowingly” exposing children and women in Syrian detention camps to torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and risk of death by refusing to repatriate them, a new report has found.

Rights and Security International (RSI), a human rights organisation based in London, published a 52-page report on Wednesday detailing the dangerous conditions faced by children and women held in detention camps in northeast Syria for their suspected connections to the Islamic State.

RSI’s estimated that some 12,000 children and women from countries outside of Iraq and Syria are being held at the Al-Hol and Roj camps - a fifth of the two camps' total population.

Among the detainees is Shamima Begum, who the British government publicly stripped of citizenship after she was groomed online and travelled to Syria as a teenager.

Nearly two-thirds of the 12,000 are under the age of 12, and many are under the age of five.

The camp detainees are being held without charge or trial, which is a violation of international law.

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“By refusing to bring these children and women back to the UK when it could do so, the British government is abandoning people – including its own citizens – to torture and death,” said Sarah St Vincent, RSI’s executive director.

“This refusal blatantly ignores fundamental human rights that the British government promotes on the international stage and treats these Muslim women and children as less than human”.

Al-Hol and Roj camps do not have “adequate or safe water, food, sanitation, and shelter” which amounts to “cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment”, RSI said.

Open sewage and lack of access

Human Rights Watch visited Al-Hol camp in June 2019 and found sewage flooding into tents. The group said children at the camps had “periodically fallen into pits and cesspools”, and older children were forcibly separated from their parents.

Women at the camp who spoke to researchers said they did not have safe access to sanitation facilities and made makeshift showers in their tents in order to wash.

They also said that drinking water was unclean and, in Al-Hol camp, “in short supply”, and food shortages were common.

In June 2021, Save the Children reported that an 11-year-old girl had collapsed in Roj camp as a result of malnutrition.

An average of five children per week died in Al-Hol camp during 2019 and 2020, and an average of two per week between January and September 2021, according to research.

An estimated 15 to 20 individuals from Britain are thought to be held at facilities in northeast Syria for their suspected links to the Islamic State. Several have had their citizenship removed.

Britain argues that women who lived under IS pose a national security threat.