(London, 28 April 2021) A cross-party group of MPs and peers has today announced that it will begin an inquiry into the trafficking of British nationals by Daesh, and will seek the repatriation of trafficking victims currently held in detention camps in North East Syria.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Trafficked Britons in Syria is chaired by Andrew Mitchell MP (Conservative), Lyn Brown MP (Labour) and cross bench peer and former head of the diplomatic service Lord Jay. Its vice chairs include Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (Conservative), David Davis MP (Conservative), Andy Slaughter (Labour), Apsana Begum (Labour) and Stuart C. McDonald MP (SNP). Other members include the Chairs of Parliament’s Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood MP (Conservative) and Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat MP (Conservative), as well as Baroness Hamwee (Lib Dem).
Around 15 British families remain detained in the camps. Investigations by the charity Reprieve indicates that the majority of the British women are victims of trafficking, as they were either transported to Syria as children, coerced into travelling to Syria, subjected to sexual and other forms of exploitation, or kept and moved within Syria against their will.
The APPG’s objectives are to:
- Ensure the UK Government fulfils its obligation to identify British nationals trafficked by Daesh
- Secure the repatriation of trafficked Britons, so their cases can be addressed in the UK
- Prevent trafficking victims detained in NES from being subjected to torture and the death penalty
- Investigate Daesh trafficking operations to prevent future trafficking by terror groups
- Learn lessons from public authorities’ failure to identify and protect victims of Daesh trafficking
- Promote more effective policy responses to trafficking by terrorist groups.
The inquiry into the trafficking of Britons to Syria will begin in May, and will comprise a number of oral evidence sessions, in addition to a call for written evidence. Group members will seek to hear from:
- International policymakers with experience of the security situation in North East Syria, including the former Deputy Coordinator for the US State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, Chris Harnisch, who played a leading role in the repatriation of US nationals from the camps
- International legal experts on human trafficking, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, Siobhan Mullally
- UK legal experts with experience handling trafficking cases with national security implications
- Academic experts on the trafficking terrorism nexus, including Professor Jayne Huckerby, Duke University School of Law
- The families of people trafficked to Syria, from the UK and other countries, including Australia.
The APPG aims to publish a report on its findings this year.
Andrew Mitchell MP said: “The British Government has a proud record in fighting human trafficking, but it has an unfortunate blind spot when it comes to women and girls who were trafficked to Syria by ISIS. Our Government should take responsibility for identifying victims of trafficking, and returning them to the UK where their cases can be properly resolved. The Government must not risk outsourcing these cases to the dictator Bashar al-Assad”.
Lyn Brown MP said: We now know a majority of British women detained in North East Syria are victims of trafficking, and that many were targeted as teenagers by Daesh’s sophisticated grooming network. These are textbook trafficking cases and the Government must treat them as such”.
Lord Jay of Ewelme said: “We must not abandon British trafficking victims to die in the desert or disappear into Bashar al-Assad’s torture prisons. The Government is fully capable of bringing these families home and resolving their cases in the UK.”
The APPG’s full membership is:
- Andrew Mitchell
- Lord Jay
- Lyn Brown
- Stuart C McDonald
- David Davis
- Baroness Warsi
- Andy Slaughter
- Apsana Begum
- Lord Dholakia
- Baroness Hamwee
- Emily Thornberry
- Bambos Charalambous
- Layla Moran
- Crispin Blunt
- Tobias Ellwood
- Tom Tugendhat
- Jeff Smith
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