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UN: 700 people died recently in Syria camps holding Daesh families

Women, reportedly wives and members of Daesh, in a refugee camp in Syria on 17 February 2019 [BULENT KILIC/AFP/Images]
Women, reportedly wives and members of Daesh, in a refugee camp in Syria on 17 February 2019 [BULENT KILIC/AFP/Images]

The United Nations has revealed that 700 people have recently died in two camps in north-east Syria, in which around 70,000 family members of Daesh fighters are currently being detained.

The UN's counter-terrorism chief  Vladimir Vorontsov informed a news conference yesterday that the residents of the Al-Hawl and Roj camps, consisting primarily of women and children, have been facing "very dire conditions" and approximately 700 have recently died as a result of "lack of medicine, [and] lack of food."

The large number of deaths have reportedly created "feelings of anger", Vorontsov said, urging the international community to help to tackle "the huge problem".

READ: The dilemma of captured Daesh fighters and abandoned children? Who is responsible?

According to the official, keeping the families within the camp for an even longer period of time "is very dangerous", warning that "they could create very explosive materials that could be very helpful for terrorists to restart their activities" within the region.

Following the territorial defeat of Daesh by the Kurdish militias and the international coalition fighting which supports them, much of the terror group's fighters have been detained within prisons run by the Kurdish forces and their families have been held in camps in north-east Syria.

The fighters and their families, consisting of both Syrians and foreign nationals who came to fight in the country during the ongoing civil war, have been at the centre of a debate in the West on whether they should be repatriated or have their citizenships revoked, rendering them stateless.

READ: Isn't it time to revoke Asma Al-Assad's British citizenship?

Last month, France repatriated ten of its citizens from the camps and last year the UK launched a repatriation process for the orphans of British Daesh fighters stuck in the camps.

Vorontsov said that while "no country would like to have these people back, with this very negative and very dangerous terrorist background," the 9,000 children must be considered and the first priority must be to save those particularly under the age of six. "In this period of time children are absolutely not in the position to be indoctrinated," he said.

He added that women, however, are "a more difficult story" as many of them are "victims of terrorism" who did not fully understand the consequences of their actions when they fled their home countries. The way forward with this "very challenging issue", according to Vorontsov, is to prosecute the women and then set about rehabilitating and reintegrating them back into society.

International OrganisationsMiddle EastNewsSyriaUN
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