Children ‘trapped’ in Syrian camps are at risk – Aid Group

Around 7,000 children of suspected foreign jihadists who are being held in overcrowded internment camps in northeastern Syria are at risk of attack and will have to be repatriated, an aid organization warned on Wednesday.

Since the territorial defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria in 2019, around 56,000 relatives of defeated jihadists have been detained in the Kurdish-controlled Al-Hol and Roj camps.

“These children are trapped in desperate conditions and are at risk every day,” said Matt Sugrue of Save the Children, a charity that works in the camps. “There is no time to lose”.

The camps are managed by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, with more than 10,000 foreigners from around 60 countries being held in a separate department.

In 2021, according to Save the Children, 74 children died in Al-Hol, eight of them were killed.

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Last month the United Nations condemned the “brutal murder” of two Egyptian girls whose bodies were found in the sewers of Al-Hol, and the charity Doctors Without Borders described the camp as “a huge open-air prison”.

A record 517 women and children were repatriated in 2022, a 60 percent increase from the previous year, but Sugrue called for those efforts to “continue and intensify.”

“At the pace of foreign governments, we will see some children grow up before they can leave these camps and return home,” he said.

According to Save the Children, a total of 1,464 women and children have been repatriated to their home countries since 2019.

“It breaks my heart to see my children growing up in this place, without an education,” said Mariam, 32, a Tunisian mother of five who lives in Al-Hol, whose testimony was recorded by Save the Children.

Syria has been devastated by more than 11 years of brutal conflict and large parts of the country remain outside government control.

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Kurdish authorities in the north-east have repeatedly urged countries to repatriate their citizens, but foreign governments have mostly taken them in sporadically, fearing security threats and a domestic political backlash.

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