Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Tunisia to repatriate nearly 200 children of suspected Daesh fighters who are currently stranded or held in crowded camps or prisons across Libya, Iraq and Syria.
Yesterday the organisation welcomed reports issued last month that Tunisia had brought home six orphaned children of alleged Daesh members from Libya as a “step toward protecting” their rights. However, they have urged the authorities in Tunis to do their utmost to return at least 36 other children who remain in Libya, in addition to some 160 more who are believed to be held in Syria and Iraq.
“Children should not be punished for the purported crimes of their parents,” insisted HRW’s Tunisia Director, Amna Guellali.
On 24 January, the official Facebook page of the Tunisian presidency released footage of President Kais Saied receiving the six orphans who were being cared for by the Misrata Red Crescent.
However, some believe that Tunisia lacks the institutions and resources to oversee the effective integration into society of the children of those killed while fighting for Daesh elsewhere. Mohamed Ikbal Ben Rejeb, president of the Rescue Association of Tunisians Trapped Abroad, pointed out that, “There is no government programme pertaining to the care for these children.”
The children still in Libya are believed to be held in prisons with their mothers,” HRW added. “They should also be allowed to return home pending investigations.”
According to one New York Times report from 2017, more Tunisians went abroad to join Daesh than from any other country. They included approximately 700 women among an estimated total of between 5,000 and 6,000 Tunisian citizens who joined the extremist group.