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More than half of British women and children detained in north-east Syria are trafficking victims, report reveals

MORE THAN half of the British women and girls detained in north-east Syrian camps are victims of human trafficking, human rights group Reprieve has revealed in a report published today.

At least 63 per cent of the adults meet the legal definition of trafficking victims, as they were subjected to sexual and other forms of exploitation, the report found.

They were either transported to Syria as children — some as young as 12 — coerced into travelling to that country or kept and moved within Syria against their will.

At least 44 per cent of the women were coerced by a male partner or relative.

The report found that Isis employed trafficking tactics and groomed and recruited hundreds of women and girls, who were subsequently forced into marriage, sexual slavery, domestic servitude and other forms of exploitation.

After years of exploitation, the women and their children escaped Isis territory and are now detained in camps with dire conditions.

In one camp, 517 people, mostly children, died in 2019.

Reprieve joint executive director Maya Foa said: “Rather than recognise them as trafficking victims, the government has, in most cases, stripped them of citizenship and abandoned them.

“It should repatriate all British nationals in the camps and bring prosecutions in British courts where there is a case to answer.”

United Nations special rapporteur on trafficking in persons Siobhan Mullally, in the report’s foreword, criticised the government for failing to honour its commitment to eradicate all forms of modern slavery and human trafficking by 2020.

She said: “The UK’s obligations, under domestic and international law, of prevention, of protection and of effective investigation of the crime of trafficking must be fulfilled.

“The particular risks faced by children, highlighted in the distressing accounts of human rights failings presented in this report, must be urgently addressed and without further delay.

“Repatriation of families currently detained indefinitely in north-east Syria is a necessary first step to meeting the UK’s domestic and international law obligations of protection, effective investigation and provision of effective remedies for the serious human rights violations ongoing.”

Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Britons trafficked to Syria, said: “There is no decency or justice in abandoning trafficking victims to face torture and the death penalty.”


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