The parents of three London schoolgirls feared to have gone to Raqqa to join Isis have issued an emotional joint statement to coincide with Mother's Day. The statement also again criticises the police, school and local authority for not doing enough to pass on information to them.
15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, along with Kadiza Sultana, 16, flew from Gatwick to Istanbul in February, where they were captured on CCTV at a bus station. They are now believed to be in the Isis stronghold of Raqqa.
In a joint statement today the parents of the three girls, who followed another girl from Bethnal Green Academy, Sharmeena Begum, pleaded with their daughters to return to the UK.
"We, the families of missing schoolgirls, pray for the immediate safe return of our beloved daughters," read the statement.
"We feel our loss more acutely on Mothers-Day as we look over to their beds and see only the spaces left behind by them."
The statement went on to say how difficult the last few weeks had been, and thanked the public for their support. However the parents again criticised the authorities for not doing enough to alert them over the fact another girl had left the school to reach Syria.
"With respect to the disappearance of our children we have been disappointed by the handling of this matter by the school, Met police and the local authority, all of whom we feel failed to act appropriately and pass on vital information to us or indeed between each other.
"As parents, we expect the safeguarding of our children to be the top priority of schools and the local authority whilst our children are in their care. Had we been made aware of circumstances sooner, we ourselves could have taken measures to stop the girls from leaving the UK."
However the statement went on to acknowledge the work being done by Tower Hamlets with regard to radicalisation and the apology made by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who said "with the benefit of hindsight" officers should have communicated with the families rather than giving the students letters to take home.
"We note and appreciate Tower Hamlets Council's very recent attempt to educate parents with respect to such dangers with a pamphlet on radicalisation and extremism. Likewise, we appreciate the police's apology with respect to their mishandling. We hope other families won't have to bear the same pain that we are enduring at the moment, and that lessons are learned from our experience."
The statement was issued on the same day three teenage boys from London were returned to the UK from Turkey where authorities had been alerted they may be on their way to join Isis in Syria. There had been criticism of the communication between Britain and Turkey in the case of the three schoolgirls.
A police spokesman said: "This is a good and a clear example of how the security cooperation between Western intelligence agencies and Turkey should work."