UK repatriates British child from Syria

Rights groups estimate there is roughly 60 British children stranded in refugee camps in northeast Syria. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 16 September 2020

UK repatriates British child from Syria

  • The child was repatriated from a Syrian Democratic Forces camp in northeast Syria
  • Save the Children said last year that more than 60 British children were stranded in Syria

LONDON: Britain said on Wednesday it had repatriated a child from Syria, one of dozens of British children thought to be trapped in the war-torn country.
British officials have previously faced criticism for refusing to help nationals including children to return home after they or their parents were accused of joining Daesh.
“Pleased we have been able to bring home a British child from Syria,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Twitter.
“Safely facilitating the return of orphans or unaccompanied British children, where possible, is the right thing to do.”
The foreign ministry declined to provide further details, citing reporting restrictions on cases involving minors.
Save the Children said in a report last year that more than 60 British children were stranded in northeast Syria.
The UK has taken a strict approach, stripping citizenship from some of those suspected of traveling to support the Daesh.
Among the most high profile cases is that of Shamima Begum who was 15 when she and two other schoolgirls from east London left to join the jihadist group in 2015.
She claims to have married a Dutch convert soon after arriving in Daesh-held territory who subsequently died.
Begum, now 20 and marooned in a refugee camp, was discovered nine months pregnant in another camp in February last year, and her newborn baby died soon after she gave birth.
Two of her other children also died under Daesh rule.
Britain annulled her UK citizenship on national security grounds after an outcry led by right-wing media but Begum has mounted a legal challenge of the decision.
The UK supreme court is set to decide on whether she can return to Britain to fight the case in court.


Shock after rare killing of British police officer

Updated 27 September 2020

Shock after rare killing of British police officer

  • The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply

LONDON: Police across Britain on Saturday paid silent tribute and flags were flown at half mast after a long-serving officer became the first to be shot dead in the line of duty in more than eight years.

Sergeant Matiu Ratana, 54, was shot by a 23-year-old man at Croydon Custody Center in south London at about 2:15 a.m (0115 GMT), and died in hospital.

The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition, turned the gun on himself, and was said to be in critical but stable condition.

Ratana’s death is being treated as murder.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said Ratana, who came to Britain from New Zealand and was known as Matt, was “senselessly killed.”

Originally from Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, he joined the Met in 1991 after university and had nearly 30 years as a uniformed officer in the British capital.

He played for London Irish and the force rugby union team, before going into coaching at East Grinstead, near Croydon. He leaves a partner and an adult son from a previous relationship.

“As a colleague, he was big in stature and big-hearted, a friendly, capable police officer,” Dick said.

“A lovely man, highly respected by officers and staff, and by the public, including suspects he arrested or dealt with in custody.

“He was very well known locally and will be remembered so fondly in Croydon, as well as in the Met and the rugby world.”

Dick said security and police body camera footage would be examined closely as part of the investigation, after media reports suggested the suspect may not have been fully searched before entering the custody suite.

Many British police carry taser stun guns but are not routinely armed, although forces have tactical firearms units to respond quickly to incidents.

According to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which sent investigators to the scene, no police firearms were fired.

The suspect was handcuffed and apparently opened fire in the custody suite with a revolver as officers prepared to search him, it added.

Deaths in service in Britain are rare and the shooting sent shockwaves throughout police forces across the country. 

Flags were lowered and officers stood in a minute’s silence in Ratana’s memory.

His death came as the British government is looking to introduce harsher sentences for attacks on emergency service workers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his “deepest condolences” to Ratana’s family, writing on Twitter that “we owe a huge debt to those who risk their own lives to keep us safe.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told parliament: “We ask our police officers to do an extraordinary job.

“The fact that one of them has fallen in the line of performing that duty is a tragedy for the entire nation.”

Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were the last British police officers to be shot dead in the line of duty, when they were ambushed in a gun and grenade attack in September 2012.

They were killed by drug dealer Dale Cregan while responding to a report of a burglary in Manchester, northwest England.

Since then, a further five officers have been killed on duty — four by vehicles while pursuing suspects and one, Keith Palmer, who was stabbed during a 2017 terror attack on parliament.

Ratana is the 17th officer from the Met to be killed by a firearm since the end of World War II, according to the National Police Memorial roll of honor.