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UN calls on Australia to repatriate nationals in Syria camps

June 22, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Women and children walk by at a camp where families of Daesh foreign fighters are held in Syria on 14 January 2020 [DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images]

The UN has called on the Australian government to urgently address the situation for women and children in camps in northeast Syria.

UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights Fionnuala Ní Aolain has said she has called on the Australian government to uphold “international obligations” and repatriate Australian nationals.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s centre-left party won elections in Australia on 21 May, toppling the conservative government.

“The Australian government is under an unequivocal international obligation to bring their nationals home, including their children,” Ní Aolain told SBS News.

“It behoves this new government to take these obligations seriously and to commit and to react speedily to the opportunity to bring them home as quickly as possible.”

Between 2014 and 2016 tens of thousands of relatives of suspected Daesh fighters were put in camps across northeast Syria.

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The issue of foreign kids in the camps has been ongoing for some time, with human rights groups calling on governments to urgently repatriate their citizens due to the dire conditions inside the camps.

The Red Cross has called it a “tragedy in plain sight.”

In March, Save the Children said they could languish there for 30 years if repatriations continue at the rate they are today.

More than 60 Australians including 47 children are in the Al-Hawl and Roj camps.

There are 18,000 Iraqi children and 7,300 minors from 60 different countries.

The camps are in dire conditions and of serious concern for children, who have been murdered, died from burns and fires and illnesses contracted from the dirty water.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on how one guard ran over a child and cracked his skull.

In March the UN Child Rights Committee said that France had violated the rights of French children by leaving them in the camps in inhuman conditions.

The committee said that France has the responsibility and power to protect French children in Syrian camps and that prolonging their detention amounts to “inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”

HRW has said their detention is arbitrary as well as indefinite because the foreign detainees have never been brought before a court.