Video report by ITV News Security Editor Rohit Kachroo
Everyone would accept they are victims but no one could agree on how to help them.
Now the remarkable evacuation of seven orphans whose Swedish parents decided to join Islamic State on their behalf might become a model for the way other countries will deal with its child citizens stuck in Kurdish camps.
The youngsters - aged between one and eight years old - have been removed from Syria.
ITV News witnessed part of their journey as they were reunited with their grandfather who had been waiting for them in Iraq.
With apparent reluctance, Sweden has become one of the first European countries to help bring back some of its child citizens in this way.
It has not booked their plane tickets or paid for hotel rooms - that remains the responsibility of their Swedish relatives - but following weeks of secretive negotiations, it sent diplomatic officials from Stockholm to meet with Kurdish counterparts to help smooth the way.
A few minutes after their conference concluded, the delegation emerged with the youngsters, holding their hands as they brought them across the Euphrates river, and eventually to relative safety across the Iraqi border.
The process might soon end with the orphans being brought back to Sweden, where some of them were born.
The orphans had already been mourning their mother, who died in Syria in January, when their father was killed during the final battles in the so-called caliphate.
Michael Skråmo converted to Islam and became a notorious IS recruiter.
His sister had stayed in touch with him once he took his wife and family to go to live under the terror group.
Days before his death, she sent him a stream of WhatsApp messages pleading with him to free the youngsters: "…let the children go so they’ll be in safety" she wrote. But he refused.
Sweden did not act quickly to get the children out of Syria.
For several weeks, their family back home said they heard nothing from the Stockholm government about whether it was willing to arrange an evacuation.
But officials appear to have made their decision in response to some public pressure, and conversations with the government of Chile, where the children’s grandfather was born.
Officials in Sweden have not promised to help repatriate the dozens of its other children in Kurdish camps.
But the way it has responded to the case of the "Skråmo Seven" might influence other governments faced with what many consider to be a contentious issue.