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France repatriates 15 women, 32 children from north-west Syria camp

January 25, 2023 at 2:49 pm

People walk on muddy soil in a refugee camp during winter, in Ein El-Bayda village of Idlib, Syria [İzzeddin Kasim – Anadolu Agency]

France has repatriated 15 women and 32 children from a detention camp in north-west Syria after pressure on the European country from human rights organisations.

The decision follows criticism from a UN committee that said Paris is failing to protect its citizens and is violating the Convention against Torture.

The children are now in the hands of child assistance services and the women, aged between 19 and 59, have been handed over to “competent authorities”, French authorities have said.

It is the fourth time France has repatriated women and children from the camps in the last seven months.

The Roj prison camp, where the women were held, is overcrowded with a lack of resources, as is the nearby Al-Hol camp.

Rights groups say the camps do not have enough food or water and hundreds of children have died from diseases, accidents and violence.

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One of Daesh bride Shamima Begum’s children died in a Syrian refugee camp in 2019. Begum’s case has sparked a national debate in Britain and the repatriation of their foreign nationals.

Roughly 38,000 foreign nationals are being held in the two camps, mainly wives, female relatives and the children of suspected Daesh fighters who have been held there since Daesh collapsed in 2019.

Almost 80 per cent of the children in these camps are under the age of 12, and most have spent the majority or all their lives here, according to Human Rights Watch.

Save the Children has called on more countries to bring home their women and children in these camps and the Syrian Democratic Forces, who control the camps, have said they may be forced to abandon them.

“This is welcome news, building on the increased repatriation efforts we saw last year from different countries,” said Director of Programmes for Save the Children Syria.

“But let us not forget that there still many thousands of Iraqi and Syrian children waiting for a similar opportunity to a safe life outside of the camps, in addition to almost 7,000 foreign children. The governments of the countries responsible for them literally hold the fate of these children in their hands. More needs to be done to bring children home as soon as possible.”

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