Bradford-based Empowering Minds wants to raise a conversation about British children who are stuck in Syria, having been forcibly taken there by their families.

Empowering Minds, founded by Bradford’s Sofia Mahmood, is advocating the repatriation of British children who - through no fault of their own - have found themselves in the midst of Syria’s deadly civil war.

In October, Save the Children reported that at least 60 British children are trapped in Syria - many of them under five years old - who are assumed to have been taken to the country by families who went there to live under the supposed ‘Islamic caliphate’ created by terrorist group ISIS.

Last month, Dominic Raab, British First Secretary of State, said 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”, as a national newspaper reported that Britain has taken steps towards repatriating a small number of orphaned British children from north-eastern Syria.

It has been reported in recent years that at least two families from Bradford had moved there, although Sofia says the “exact numbers” of Bradfordians still there is unknown.

“British children in Syria were never given a choice to be there. We want to work towards repatriating them, where they need to be professionally assessed, on each individual case, and given appropriate psychological and emotional support”, Sofia says.

“There are innocent British orphans there who have experienced trauma and constant instability, as well as a lack of food and access to adequate hygiene. Some of them may be living from refugee camp to refugee camp - what kind of life is that?

“We in Britain have a duty of care to these children whose bags were packed for them without their consent. Bradford is very passionate about safeguarding - we want to make sure every child has the opportunity to have a future.”

Sofia argued that these children are victims of grooming: “When people think of grooming, they only think of British Pakistani men. If that is the constant rhetoric, that’s all people will believe grooming is. But grooming can also refer to other things, including taking vulnerable children to a warzone.”

Sofia also spoke of her Empowering Mothers Against Radicalisation and Grooming project, funded by the Home Office and Bradford Council.

“The programme is balanced and we work with all communities. Anyone can be a victim of grooming and radicalisation, whether it’s by an extremist religious group, a far-right group, by drug dealers or through child sexual exploitation.

“A root cause of extremism is fear - being fearful of others. If we have an honest dialogue between different communities, it can help erase those fears.”