France repatriates 16 jihadist women and 35 minors held in Syria | International
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France announced on Tuesday the repatriation of 35 minors of French nationality and 16 women from the camps in northeastern Syria, where relatives of jihadists linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group are being held. The group of relatives of these children in France, who for years have been demanding the return of the minors, has celebrated a news that they hope, they say, will be the beginning of a change in the “case by case” policy that Paris maintained until now. , limiting the arrival of these minors to Gallic territory to a minimum and rejecting the return of adults, including mothers, often also accused of having participated in jihadist activities.
According to a statement from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the repatriated minors have been handed over to the services in charge of helping children, who will be in charge of carrying out a “medical follow-up”. For their part, the 16 women have been “handed over to the competent judicial authorities,” adds the concise official letter, which thanks the local authorities of northeast Syria “for the cooperation that has made this operation possible.”
The National Antiterrorist Prosecutor’s Office has specified that of the 35 minors, seven are isolated children, that is, unaccompanied or orphans. One of the repatriated minors has been placed in preventive detention, given that he is “a young man who will come of age in the coming days” and about whom there are suspicions that he could have participated in a “terrorist association” , explains the specialized prosecutor’s office in a statement.
Although the other repatriated children are housed in institutions for minors, the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office will now carry out “centralized monitoring, in contact with the local prosecutor’s offices” of these minors, in accordance, he points out, with the instructions of the French Ministry of Justice.
Regarding the 16 repatriated women, the Prosecutor’s Office indicates that 12 have done so accompanying their children, while another four had already consented, in the past 12 months, for their children to return to France alone. Her ages range between 22 and 39 years old and they have French nationality except for two, whose children, however, do have it. They all remain on hold. Half are in preventive detention “in execution of a search order”. An arrest warrant weighed on the remaining eight, according to the Antiterrorist Prosecutor’s Office.
The United Families Collective, which brings together relatives of these minors and their mothers and has been fighting for years for the repatriation of their grandchildren and daughters, has revealed that some of the young returnees are orphans and that others return with their mothers, a of them, they affirm, dying and that “he risked dying in the internment camp.” In any case, they point out, the return of minors accompanied by their mothers is a novelty in the French case that they hope will lead to a change in policy.
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“It is the first time that France has repatriated children with their mothers from Syrian prison camps,” the relatives point out, claiming that “this first operation marks the end of an inhumane policy that has lasted for years.” “We hope that this repatriation means the end of the abject ‘case by case’ policy that seeks to classify children, separate siblings and tear children from their mothers, abandoned in the fields,” they add.
According to the group, there are still 150 minors of French nationality in the Al Roj camp and the French is one of the European governments that has made the least effort to recover these young people, despite the condemnation of its policy by international institutions. In February, the then French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, reiterated his refusal to reform the “case by case” policy that, since the fall of ISIS in 2019, has allowed the repatriation of minors but not their mothers. .
“For isolated minors, orphans, and for those whose mother accepts their departure, we will continue to carry out extremely dangerous operations,” Le Drian told France 5. “But not for adults,” settled the head of French diplomacy, replaced after the spring elections by Catherine Colonna, now responsible for this joint repatriation of mothers and minors.
“Our country is increasingly isolated by opting for inhumanity and irresponsibility, unlike Germany, Belgium and many other European countries” that have carried out more repatriations than France. Since 2016, Paris had only repatriated 126 minors, denounces the Collective of United Families. According to their calculations, in 2021, 97 European women and children were repatriated. Only seven of them were French, all minors. From January 1 to July 4, other European countries had repatriated 65 children and 27 women, none of them French.
Spain, with 17 children and three women (plus one of Moroccan origin, but with children of a Spanish father) housed in the camps in northeastern Syria, has not carried out any repatriation.
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