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UN urges countries to repatriate 27,000 children from Syria camp

 Syrian refugee camp in the outskirts of Athens Syrian refugee camp in the outskirts of Athens Photo by Julie Ricard on Unsplash

30 January 2021

The United Nations calls upon member states to repatriate 27,000 children from a camp in Syria.

The United Nations Counterterrorism chief, Vladimir Voronkov, urged member states to repatriate 27,000 children residing in Al Hol, many of whom are the sons and daughters of Islamic State (IS) fighters. Located in northeastern Syria, Al Hol is the largest refugee camp in Syria that houses displaced Syrians and refugees, and is currently providing shelter to nearly 62,000 individuals, according to UN humanitarian officials. Over 80% of Al Hol’s population are women and children, “many who fled there after Islamic State militants lost their last Syrian stronghold in 2019.”

According to Voronkov, Al Hol houses children from 60 countries who “remain stranded, abandoned to their fate, vulnerable to be preyed on by IS enforcers, and at risk of radicalisation within the camp.” UN humanitarian officials have expressed concern over the poor living conditions of the camp. In 2019, 300 children died in Al-Hol, according to Marie Dose, a lawyer representing women from the camp. By being left in the camp, these individuals are susceptible to joining terrorist organizations and have little to no chance to ever build a prosperous life for themselves. 

Stating that these children are the responsibility of member states, the UN urged states to repatriate them. European countries have demonstrated reluctance to do so, citing security risks as the reason. However, countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan “have collectively repatriated nearly 1,000 children and their family members” and so far, no evidence has emerged that supports the idea that repatriation of the children would be a threat. Furthermore, Voronkov asserted that the children must be treated as victims and should not be subjected to detainment or prosecution following repatriation. 

It is imperative that the children have the chance to develop a sense of identity and nationality, and not remain stateless individuals. To accomplish this, they must be integrated into safe and welcoming communities and receive assistance with earning an education, obtaining healthcare, and securing employment. 


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Author: Sitara Sandhu; Editor: Gabriella Pavlakis

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