United Nations spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric on Tuesday said the UN is deeply concerned by the situation of nearly 31,000 foreign children detained in Al-Hawl and Rouge refugee camps in northeastern Syria and called for their immediate repatriation.
"As many as 31,000 foreign children live in appalling conditions without proper education or health care .. What is their future and where are they going? … These are the problems that must be dealt with immediately," Dujarric told reporters.
Last Wednesday, UN independent rights experts called on 57 governments who are believed to have citizens detained in the two refugee camps to immediately repatriate their nationals, saying "an unknown number" have died while being detained in the "squalid" camps of northeastern Syria.
"There are nearly 31,000 foreign children who live in horrific conditions, and you know that if we leave children of 5, 10 or 12 years old under these conditions for a long time, we destroy their future to some extent and expose them to potential extremism," Dujarric said.
According to United Nations data, nearly 64,000 people from 57 countries live in the Al-Hawl and Rouge camps, most of them are women and children. They include citizens of Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Despite calls by human rights organisations and the US for states to repatriate their citizens and put them on trial in their home countries, many have refused or been reluctant to do so. Governments cite the security risks that they would pose if they are returned.