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France, criticized for trickle-down returns, repatriates seven children of jihadists from Syria

France repatriated, Wednesday, January 13, seven children of French jihadists who were held in camps for displaced persons under Kurdish control in Syria. These young children, aged 2 to 11 and “Particularly vulnerable”, were handed over on their arrival in France to “Judicial authorities” and “Taken care of by social services”, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, without further details.

In total, 35 children of French jihadists have been brought back from Syria since the collapse of the Islamic State (IS) group in March 2019. The previous repatriation dated back to June 2020 and concerned ten minors. These are orphans or children entrusted by the rare mothers who have agreed to part with them. The children were handed over to a French delegation on Tuesday led by Eric Chevalier, director of the crisis and support center at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The seven children repatriated on Wednesday were detained in the Roj and Al-Hol camps, said a source within the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration, which manages the region. “They belong to IS families. Three children are from the same family and are orphans. For the other four, their mothers accepted their return alone, due to their delicate state of health ”, added this source, on condition of anonymity.

They needed “Specific medical care not available” in the Kurdish territories, added an official within the foreign affairs of the semi-autonomous Kurdish administration, Fener al-Kaït.

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” A bitter taste “

These new repatriations have revived the questions of the families of French jihadists who demand in vain for the return to France of some 150 adults and 200 children held in Syria – plus a few cases in Iraq – since the fall of ISIS. “This operation leaves a bitter taste, even if it proves once again that France has the capacity to repatriate who it wants, when it wants”, estimated the United Families Collective.

The French authorities refuse to bring back the adults, men and women, whom they consider accomplices of the IS and wish to see judged on the spot. They also stress that the return of children is subject to parental authorization.

The mother of a French woman detained in Roj for two years with her four children appealed to President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, while the news of her daughter, suffering from a tumor according to those around her, is alarming.

Families of ISIS members are being held in overcrowded camps, also crowded with thousands of civilians who fled fighting against jihadists, in conditions described as “Appalling” by the UN. The Kurdish authorities are calling on the countries concerned to repatriate them or to create an international tribunal to try them.

Read the report: Slow death of jihadist prisoners in northeastern Syria

More than 200 French children in “immediate” danger

Many observers also speak of the risks of escape from these camps and prisons where the men are held, while the IS is experiencing a resurgence on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Thirteen French jihadists, including Hayat Boumedienne, the companion of one of the perpetrators of the attacks in France in January 2015, thus escaped, according to the Terrorism Analysis Center (CAT).

Like France, most countries, especially European countries, are reluctant to repatriate their nationals in the face of often hostile public opinions. Paris, which has one of the strongest European contingents of jihadists in the area, is particularly singled out.

In early December, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child ruled that the more than 200 French children detained in the tent camps in northeastern Syria were in danger there. “Immediate”, with some “Risk of irreparable damage to their lives, their physical and mental integrity and their development”.

The National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), for its part, calls for the return of all children and mothers from Syria, as well as that of jihadists “Condemned to death in Iraq”.

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