Joel Simon’s article (The secret world of hostage negotiation, 25 January) highlighted the vital work of helping people kidnapped overseas. It also questioned the UK government’s approach to such cases.
It is important to clarify that the government does not stop families or organisations paying ransoms to resolve non-terrorist kidnaps. Our “no concessions” approach in terrorist cases – firmly upheld for decades – is for three core reasons. First, it is illegal under UK law to pay money to terrorists. Second, paying ransoms to terrorists increases their capability and encourages more kidnaps. Islamist militants reportedly earned $125m in ransoms between 2008 and 2014, with Islamic State earning an estimated $20m in 2014 alone. Such money is then used to attack our citizens and terrorise local populations. And third, morally, we strongly believe terrorists should not be rewarded for endangering the lives of our citizens.
We know this is a difficult issue. It’s why we dedicate extensive resources to such cases, actively encourage other countries not to pay ransoms, and do everything we can to support the families of hostages.