Free 27,000 children from Al-Hol, Amnesty International says

Amnesty International calls on states to repatriate 27,000 children held in Syria Al-Hol camp
2 min read
30 November, 2021
Amnesty International has called on states to repatriate 27,000 children detained in Al-Hol, a squalid camp in northeast Syria.
Thousands of children are held in the al-Hol camp in northeast Syria [Getty]

Amnesty International has called on states to repatriate an estimated 27,000 children of foreign parents held in northeast Syria's Al-Hol camp.

"Tens of thousands of children... have been abandoned to misery, trauma and death simply because their governments are refusing to assume their responsibilities and bring these children back," said Diana Semaan, Amnesty International's Syria researcher, in a statement released by the organisation.

Since the fall of Baghouz - the Islamic State group's last major stronghold in Syria - in 2019, around 60,000 Syrians, Iraqis, and other nationals have been detained in al-Hol camp without trial. A majority are children, some of whom were born in the camp, and women. The camp also hosts thousands of families with no affiliation to IS. 

Humanitarian organisations have long been calling on foreign states to repatriate their citizens from al-Hol but also from Roj, another high-security refugee camp holding former and suspected Islamic State militants and their kin. Both camps are controlled by the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration.

But "governments continue to show a shameful lack of willingness to repatriate [these children]," Amnesty International highlighted in its statement, recalling that no child should be deprived of their liberty arbitrarily according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The organisation accused the Autonomous Administration of human rights abuses against camp residents, including arbitrarily detaining 12-year-old boys, separating two-year-old children from their caregivers, and curtailing access to healthcare.

Conditions at the camps are widely considered to be "squalid", with limited access to food, clean water, healthcare, or education. 

"Children and women are living in what can only be described as horrific sub-human conditions, " UN Special Rapporteur Ni Aolain stated in February during a press briefing. "The conditions in these camps may reach the threshold of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law."

Over the past year, the camp has been plagued by violence and killings with more than 40 murders recorded in the first quarter of 2021 alone. There have been 30 more documented killings between April and September. The Norwegian Refugee Council, a humanitarian NGO, had to temporarily suspend activities in the camp in September following threats made towards their staff.