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Travel ban for five east London girls over fears they will join Isis in Syria

Girls, aged 15 and 16, attend Bethnal Green academy in east London and have been made wards of court.

Five teenage girls who attend the same east London school as the three girls who fled to join Islamic State in February are subject to a travel ban, it has been revealed.

The children, all at Bethnal Green academy and aged 15 and 16, have been made wards of court to prevent them departing for Syria.

Applications for the travel ban were lodged by social services at the London borough of Tower Hamlets following the disappearance in mid-February of Kadiza Sultana, 16, Shamima Begum, 15, and Amira Abase, 15, from their homes in east London.

The fact that the five teenagers are from the same school as the three missing girls emerged during a legal challenge brought by the Press Association at the high court in London on Friday.

All five were barred from traveling abroad without permission by a judge in the family division of the high court, Mr Justice Hayden, on 20 March after showing an interest in going to Syria. He also made an order preventing the five girls from being identified.

On Friday, however, he agreed that it could be reported that all eight teenagers were pupils at Bethnal Green academy in Bethnal Green, east London. The Press Association had argued that revealing the link to the school would be in the public interest.

Tower Hamlets social workers have raised concerns that the girls might flee to areas controlled by Isis in Syria. The judge has said that sometimes the law had to intervene to protect young people from themselves.

There have been hearings throughout the week with evidence given by counter-terrorism specialists at the Metropolitan police.

The court heard that staff and pupils at the academy were already likely to know who the five girls were. Revealing the name of the school to those outside the school community would not create a significant risk of the girls been identified, it was argued.

But Christopher Barnes, counsel for Tower Hamlets council, and Jennifer Carter-Manning, for the Metropolitan police, argued unsuccessfully that the name of the school attended by the five girls should not be revealed. They maintained that revealing the name would pose a risk of the teenagers’ identities being revealed and put them at risk.

A Tower Hamlets council spokesperson said: “We welcome the judge’s ruling to uphold the original decision to confiscate the pupil’s passports for their own safety. Keeping children safe is our highest priority.

“This step has not been taken lightly but we came to the conclusion that it was in the best interests of the young people involved to take this course of action. We work closely with the Metropolitan police, parents and schools to do everything we can to ensure the safety and security of local young people.

“Bethnal Green academy have followed the advice offered to them by the council and the police. The fact that this friendship group all attend the same school is no reflection on the school or the work that they have been doing to address this issue.”

In a separate case on 17 March, Hayden barred a 16-year-old boy, whose two elder brothers had been killed waging jihad in Syria, from travelling abroad by making him a ward of court. The youngster cannot be named but the local authority that applied for him to be made a ward of court was Brighton and Hove city council.

Earlier this month, three male British teenagers were arrested after being stopped in the Turkish city of Istanbul while attempting to reach Syria to join Isis.

The families of Kadiza, Shamima and Amira have appealed for them to return home immediately. They have criticised the police and school for not passing on warnings directly that might have prevented them from disappearing. The girls did not hand over warning letters to their parents.

At the time the Metropolitan police said: “There was nothing to suggest at the time that the girls themselves were at risk and indeed their disappearance has come as a great surprise, not least to their own families.”

Bethnal Green academy, which broke up for school holidays on Thursday, has said it barred access to social media from its classrooms and the radicalisation did not happen on its premises.


The Guardian

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