The Metropolitan Police have denied allegations that it took three days to inform Turkey about the three missing schoolgirls from Bethnal Green suspected of joining the Islamic State in Syria.
Kadiza Sultana, 16, Amira Abase, 15, and Shamima Begum,15, all pupils at Bethnal Green Academy, flew from London to Turkey on February 17.
Turkish deputy prime minister Bülent Arinç criticised UK police for not taking “necessary measures”.
He said: “It is a condemnable act for Britain to let three girls come to Istanbul and then let us know three days later.”
“The search is ongoing. It would be great if we can find them. But if we can’t, it is not us who will be responsible, but the British.”
Metropolitan Police responded by saying they began working with Turkish authorities the day after the first two teenagers were reported missing one week ago.
A statement from the Metropolitan Police said: “Once we established that the girls had travelled to Turkey, police made contact with the foreign liaison officer at the Turkish Embassy in London on Wednesday 18, February.
“Since then we have been working closely with the Turkish authorities who are providing great assistance and support to our investigation.”
The families of the three girls made a direct appeal last Sunday for the girls to come home. Abase Hussen said his daughter Amira had told him she was going to a wedding on the morning she travelled to Gatwick Airport to fly to Turkey and had been behaving normally.
Hussen said: “The message we have for Amira is to get back home. We miss you. We cannot stop crying. Please think twice. Don’t go to Syria.”
Renu Begum said for her younger sister, Shamima: “Mum needs you more than anything in the world. You’re our baby. We just want you home. We want you safe.”
Sister of Kadiza, Halima Khanom said: “We want you know that we all miss you and we love you. Everyone is hurting because we don’t know if you are safe, especially mum. Find the courage in your heart to contact us and let us know you are okay, that is all we ask.”
The police have previously expressed concern that the missing girls may have fled the country to join ISIS.
Tragic reports of local girls going to join Isis. Vital that we work together to stop this happening again & bring our young people home
— Lutfur Rahman (@MayorLutfur) February 22, 2015
Mark Keary, principal of Bethnal Green Academy said that they were “shocked and saddened” by the disappearance of the three schoolgirls and that police had previously spoken to them after another student disappeared in December.
He said: “Police have advised us that there is no evidence that radicalisation of the missing students took place at the academy.”
Police stressed that the appeal was not about “criminalising people, it is about preventing tragedies by offering support to the young and vulnerable”.
Anyone with any information should call the free phone Anti-Terrorist Hotline number on 0800 789 321.