Biden govt supports repatriating jihadists: US diplomat

Biden govt supports repatriating jihadists: US diplomat
3 min read
10 February, 2021
An American diplomat told the United Nations on Wednesday that new US President Joe Biden supports the repatriation of jihadists and their families to their home countries.
Biden favours the return of jihadists to their home countries to counter attacks [Getty]

President Joe Biden's administration believes countries should repatriate jihadists and their families to counter the threat from the Islamic State group, an American diplomat told the United Nations on Wednesday.

"The global threat from ISIS will grow if the international community does not repatriate their citizens," said Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the acting US ambassador for special political affairs.

Former president Donald Trump's government also supported the repatriation of fighters who went to fight abroad, mainly in Syria and Iraq.

Several European countries - including France - refuse to repatriate adults, believing they should be tried in countries where they are accused of committing crimes.

They only accept the return of their children on a case-by-case basis.

"Beyond being the best option from a security standpoint, repatriation is also simply the right thing to do," said DeLaurentis during a Security Council video conference dedicated to the threat of terrorism.

"It is estimated that 90 percent of children in the camps are under 12 and 50 percent under five."

"We watch with concern as women and children languish in camps in dire conditions, with little access to education, increasing the potential for the radicalisation," he added.

DeLaurentis warned that the IS group "remains a serious threat."

The group exploits instability in Iraq and Syria, demonstrates intentions to "execute attacks abroad and continues to inspire terrorist attacks from sub-saharan Africa to the Asia-Pacific theatre," he told diplomats.

He said there were tens of thousands of suspected foreign terrorist fighters in conflict zones.

Beyond those areas "there is a surge in the threat posed by ISIS affiliates around the world, especially on the African continent," DeLaurentis said.

"It is alarming but not unexpected to see these affiliates across Africa, working together. This poses a danger to us all," he explained.

Repatriate children

The comments came just weeks after the UN counterterrorism chief urged countries to repatriate the 27,000 children stranded in a massive camp in northeastern Syria, many of them sons and daughters of Islamic State extremists who once controlled large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Vladimir Voronkov told an informal meeting of the UN Security Council in January that "the horrific situation of the children in Al Hol (camp) is one of the most pressing issues in the world today".

The 27,000 children "remain stranded, abandoned to their fate," vulnerable to be preyed on by Islamic State enforcers, "and at risk of radicalisation within the camp," he said.

Al Hol, the largest camp for refugees and displaced Syrians in the country, is currently home to almost 62,000 residents, according to UN humanitarian officials. More than 80 percent are women and children, many who fled there after Islamic State militants lost their last Syrian stronghold in 2019. There are a number of other camps in the northeast as well.

Voronkov said there are children from 60 countries in the camps who are the responsibility of their member states, not of Syria or the groups that control the camps. Kurdish fighters are guarding Al-Hol and other camps as well as thousands of Islamic State fighters and boys in prisons.

He said a number of countries - including Russia and Kazakhstan that convened the virtual meeting - "have collectively repatriated nearly 1,000 children and their family members".

Voronkov said the experiences of the returnees are being compiled "and what we see thus far is that fears of security risks have been unfounded".

The executive director of the UN Counterterrorism Center stressed that children "must be treated primarily as victims" and youngsters under the age of 14 should not be detained or prosecuted.

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