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Syria Kurds transfer foreign women, children from overcrowded and 'inhumane' Al-Hol camp

Aid groups have repeatedly deplored living conditions in al-Hol camp [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 October, 2020

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Kurdish authorities have started to transfer foreign women and their children from an overcrowded camp in northeast Syria.
Syrian Kurds have transferred foreign women, including wives of Islamic State group fighters, and children from an overcrowded camp in northeast Syria, local reports said on Monday.

The announcement comes as Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria say they are abdicating responsibility for foreign nationals in the camp, who hail from around 50 different countries.

"A decision will be issued to empty the Syrians from the camp completely," Elham Ahmad, President of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) was quoted by Rudaw news agency as saying.

"Those who remain in the camp will not be the responsibility of the self-administration," she added.

She described the camp as a "heavy burden on the shoulders" of the autonomous administration. 

"The Self-Administration does not have to pay exorbitant sums in order to provide these people with food and other things. Besides, the problems that arise daily including assassinations, rape, and so on," Ahmad added.

Local sources reported that some 395 women and children are expected to be moved from Al-Hol to Roj camp, which has been expanded in coordination with the United Nations.

Read also: Australian women, children 'abducted' from Syria refugee camp: reports

Some 68,000 people – including Syrians and Iraqis as well as other foreign nationals – live in Al-Hol camp. Nearly two-thirds, approximately 43,000, are children.

After years of spearheading the fight against IS with backing from a US-led international coalition, Syria's Kurds hold thousands of foreigners suspected of supporting the extremist group in their custody.

These include alleged fighters in jails, but also thousands more women and children related to them in displacement camps - many in the sprawling tent city of Al-Hol. 

Aid groups have repeatedly deplored living conditions in the camp where more than half of its inhabitants are under the age of five, and Kurdish authorities reported the first coronavirus case among residents in late August.

Local officials have also reported several incidents of IS followers attacking guards or aid workers in Al-Hol in recent months, or attempting to escape. 

Western countries have been largely reluctant to repatriate their IS-linked nationals held in northeast Syria, though some have brought home women and children on a case-by-case basis. 

IS jihadists declared a "caliphate" in large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, implementing their brutal interpretation of religion on millions under their rule.

But various campaigns against them in both countries whittled away at that proto-state, before Kurdish-led forces expelled them from their last patch of territory last year in Syria's far east.

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