French, Dutch orphans repatriated from Syria
Twelve orphaned children of French jihadists were flown home yesterday from Syria, along with two Dutch orphans who will be handed over to the Netherlands, the French foreign ministry said. The latest wave of repatriations of foreigners from crowded camps in northeast Syria targeted a group of children that were “isolated and particularly vulnerable”, the French ministry said, adding some were sick and/or malnourished.
They were handed over to French and Dutch officials by Syrian Kurdish authorities, according to Abdelkarim Omar, a senior Kurdish official. The transfer marks the latest small step in efforts to resolve the problem posed by the huge numbers of stranded foreign jihadists and their families in Syrian camps. The children, the oldest of whom is aged 10 according to Omar, had been held together with tens of thousands of people who fled recent fighting against the Islamic State group.
Omar said the transfer took place in the town of Ain Issa on Sunday, near Syria’s border with Turkey. France has one of the largest contingents of jihadists who were captured or turned themselves in, together with their families, in the final stages of the US-backed Kurdish assault on the last fragment of the IS “caliphate”. Like many Western countries however it has been torn over what to do with the jihadists, insisting that they must face local justice.
Larger than expected numbers of families emerged from the ruins of the last IS enclave and the fate of tens of thousands of them remains unclear. France had already repatriated five orphans from Syria in mid-March, as well as a threeyear-old girl whose mother was sentenced to life imprisonment in Iraq.
But so far it has refused to let mothers, some of whom were accused of acting as IS propagandists, return with their children. France’s Human Rights Defender Jacques Toubon last month called on the government to stop the “inhumane and degrading treatment” of French mothers and children living in Syria.