The UK government is in the process of repatriating a number of British citizens from north-east Syria, with the individuals expected to return from an area once dominated by Isis within days.
The Home Office has said it would always consider how to repatriate individuals on a “case by case” basis, although authorities have generally been reluctant to help Britons who lived under the so-called caliphate to return home.
Sources indicated that the planned repatriation is likely to be exceptional. Last week it emerged that ministers had also decided they would not mount a wider rescue operation involving the use of special forces such as the SAS.
The defeat of Isis in March left around 60 adult men and women plus a further 60 children in refugee camps or prisons run by the Syrian Kurdish forces, who took control of the north-east of the country ravaged by civil war.
Turkey’s invasion of the border areas in October further complicated the picture, prompting ministers to urgently evaluate whether some children could be rescued, amid concerns about whether conditions in the camps would deteriorate.
But Priti Patel, the home secretary, and Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, successfully argued that a full rescue operation would pose too great a security risk – an argument that prevailed over Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, who had wanted all British orphans to be returned.