The first Syrian White Helmets have arrived for resettlement to the UK, where officials call them “brave volunteers” and heroes. The group only works in militant-controlled areas and has been seen rubbing shoulders with jihadists.
Members of the group and their families will be settled in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), the Home Office announced on Monday.
The White Helmets “saved the lives of thousands of innocent civilians during the Syrian conflict,” said Home Secretary Sajid Javid, adding he was “proud that the UK is resettling these brave individuals and their families and giving them the opportunity to rebuild their lives here.”
The White Helmets are true modern day heroes - rushing to save the Syrian people as bombs rained down.
The UK is proud to have led the international effort to secure their safety.
? https://t.co/oaDUHwqHqg pic.twitter.com/WvcTy2FfUf
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) September 24, 2018
We welcome the first White Helmets to be resettled in the UK,” said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, calling their actions “true modern day heroism.”
“These brave volunteers have rushed to pull people from the rubble when bombs have rained down on Syria and I’m proud that the UK has led the way in their evacuation and resettlement,” added Hunt.
London has granted asylum to 29 “White Helmets” and up to 70 of their family members, the Daily Telegraph reported. The first family has already arrived, with the rest due next month. The Home Office did not include any numbers in its announcement. Back in July, the UK led efforts to evacuate 98 group members and 324 of their relatives from an enclave in southern Syria, via Israel.
In a sense, the White Helmets are coming home: the group was set up in 2013 by former British intelligence operative James Le Mesurier, and is funded in part by the US and UK governments. Though calling itself the “Syrian civil defense,” the group has operated exclusively in areas controlled by anti-government rebels, among whom is Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, now called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
The government in Damascus flat-out accuses the White Helmets of being terrorists, offering them a choice between surrender and amnesty, or death.'
Read more: UK begins ‘resettling’ White Helmets as refugees