France repatriates ten children of ISIS fighters from Syrian camps

A woman carries an injured boy amidst group of females in a Syrian camp A woman carries an injured boy amidst group of females in a Syrian camp Ivor Prickett/The New York Times

22 June 2020

France has repatriated a total of 28 minors since March 2019, yet 270 children remain stuck in camps, often in dire circumstances

On the 22nd of June, France has returned ten young French minors, orphans or humanitarian cases from French jihadists, stuck in detention camps in north-east Syria. The group includes three orphans and seven youngsters from two different mothers, all between the ages of three and nine years old. In total, France has repatriated 28 children from Syria: five in March 2019, 12 in June 2019 and one girl in April 2020.

The ten children are now in the care of the French judicial authorities, where they receive medical treatment and are taken care of by social services. A mother of one of the children has stated that she was increasingly nervous about radicalization within the camp, indicating “that’s why I’m ready to separate from them and let France take them back”. Repatriations are only allowed with the parents’ agreement  of separation, and often focus on orphans or children who need urgent medical treatment.

Despite the successful return of these ten youngsters, this is not a victory, according to attorney Ms. Maria Dosé. In an interview on the 22nd of June, she responded that “a repatriation is a life saved (…) but I think today of the dozens of children who still live in the camps.” She, and seven other French lawyers, published an appeal to the French government the day after. They ask for the repatriation of all 270 children and their mothers, who are still detained in Syrian camps and facing violence, malnutrition, disease and misery. In 2019 alone, 517 people have died in Al-Hol camp, amongst which 371 children.

Ever since the defeat of Islamic State (IS) in 2019, Kurdish forces in addition to the Council of Europe, the United Nations (UN) Committees, the UN Secretary General, the Defender of Rights, the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the European Parliament, have called on European states to repatriate children. Yet, Western nations have been reluctant, leaving some 900 children, including from France, Belgium, Canada and Australia, stuck in Syrian camps.


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Author: Roos Middelkoop

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