LEICESTER, United Kingdom – The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have welcomed the repatriation of British children orphaned in Syria, after their parents had sought to support the Islamic State Group.

“We welcome the special repatriation of the orphaned British children from Syria and commend the Government’s initiative to bring them home,” said Cecilia Taylor-Camara, the senior policy adviser at the bishops’ conference’s Office for Migration Policy.

According to The Independent, around 900 UK citizens left the country to join the Islamic State, and the British government has been reluctant to let them return. The jihadist group, which once controlled large portions of territory in Syria and Iraq, was declared defeated earlier this year, and thousands of its fighters and other supporters now live in guarded camps.

However, the government has faced pressure to allow British women and children to return home.

On Nov. 21, the Kurdish self-administered region in Syria announced it had handed over three British orphans to a representative of the UK Foreign Office.

The children are now with relatives in the UK.

“These innocent, orphaned, children should never have been subjected to the horrors of war. We have facilitated their return home, because it was the right thing to do,” said Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary.

“Now they must be allowed the privacy and given the support to return to a normal life,” he added.

However, Taylor-Camara called on Raab to do more to help UK citizens trapped in Syria.

“I would ask the Foreign Secretary to go beyond this charitable gesture and address the injustice of leaving British children behind in a war zone. The impact of the conflict on children in the Syrian war is devastating and we cannot be indifferent to suffering of innocent victims. I believe we can do more as a nation and we must be unafraid to save lives,” she said.

Alison Griffin, the head of humanitarian campaigns at the UK-based charity Save the Children, also praised the return of the orphans.

“Today the UK government is transforming the lives of these innocent children who have been through terrible things that are far beyond their control. They will now have the precious chance to recover, have happy childhoods and live full lives. We should be proud of everyone who has worked to make this happen,” she said in a statement.

“Every child saved is a triumph of compassion in the face of cruelty. We fervently hope this is just the start. There are still as many as 60 British children that remain stranded in appalling conditions and Syria’s harsh winter will soon begin to bite. All are as innocent as those rescued today and our very real fear is that they won’t all survive to see the spring. They must all be brought home before it is too late,” Griffin said.

Eight American women and children who were captured in northern Syria by Kurdish forces were returned to the United States in June.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome

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