Sad Mother’s Day for families of 3 East End schoolgirls who ran off to Syria
PUBLISHED: 16:33 17 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:33 17 March 2015
PA Wire/Press Association Images
The families of the three schoolgirls who fled to Syria last month spent Mother’s Day on Sunday appealing for their daughters to return home.
They blamed their school and the Metropolitan Police for not giving them warnings about Islamic radicalisation after another pupil from Bethnal Green Academy had slipped out of the country back in December.
The three Bethnal Green families pleaded this week for Amira Abase and Shamima Begum, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, to “come home.”
The pupils slipped out of the country at half-term and flew to Istanbul on February 17, making their way to Isis-held territory over the border in Syria.
“We pray for the immediate safe return of our daughters,” the families said in a joint statement at the weekend.
“We feel our loss more acutely on Mother’s Day as we look at their beds and see only the spaces left behind.”
They criticised the slow response from authorities after their daughters were reported missing. It was two days before Turkish police were alerted.
“We have been disappointed by the school, the Met Police and the local authority,” the families added.
“They failed to act appropriately and pass on vital information to us, or between each other.
“As parents, we expect the safeguarding of our children to be top priority of schools and the local authority while our children are in their care.
“Had we been made aware of circumstances sooner, we could have taken measures to stop the girls leaving the UK.”
They were referring to a letter about the first girl from the school who slipped away in December, who is now in Syria, believed to have since been in contact with the three by social media.
A letter from the school for parents about her disappearance said she was only “missing” and didn’t mention Syria which the families say would have alerted them.
Their daughters had also been quizzed by police about the first girl—but the parents were kept out of the loop.
The school was instructed by police not to reveal anything about Syria, just to say she was missing, the Home Affairs parliamentary committee heard on March 11.
The families acknowledged the apology by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to the parliamentary committee over the “mishandling” and how the girls’ slipped through Gatwick’s security screening.
“We hope other families won’t have to bear the same pain that we are enduring,” their statement continued.
The school has so far not commented on the families’ criticism, after being contacted this week by the East London Advertiser.
The three pupils paid for their flights to Turkey over-the-counter at an East End travel agent’s with cash gained by “taking jewellery from the families,” MPs were told.
No questions were asked at Gatwick about the unaccompanied youngsters—airport staff were “more focussed on whether luggage fits than child safety,” the families’ lawyer Tasnime Akinjee told the MPs.
Around 600 British-born Muslims have headed to Syria and Iraq since the conflict began.
Home Affiars chairman Keith Vaz said this week: “Parents need to be vigilant. This flight of young people to Syria is on a much larger scale than we envisaged.”
The National Police Counter Terrorism Network has begun the next phase of a campaign to help families prevent youngsters running away to Syria. The campaign opened on Monday with radio and press ads in ethnic Muslim media.
Some 22 women and girls have been reported missing to police in the past 12 months by families who feared they have gone to Syria, putting them in serious danger and leaving their families devastated.
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