French policy on children in Syria IS camps 'untenable'

French repatriation policy for children in IS camps 'no longer tenable', says presidency ombudsman
2 min read
29 July, 2021
The conditions of detention at camps for IS-linked individuals in Syria constitute 'serious violations of the rights of children,' the Défenseur des Droits (Defender of Rights) has said.
A UN commission is looking into rights violations experienced by children in Syria camps [Getty]

France’s "case-by-case" policy for the repatriation of children detained in Islamic State group camps in Syria is "no longer tenable", a human rights ombudsman appointed by the French presidency said on Tuesday.

The Défenseur des Droits (Defender of Rights) made the comment after three complaints had been made by the relatives of women and children being held at camps in northeast Syria to the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In a statement, the ombudsman said it had "addressed its observations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child as a third-party".

The conditions of detention constitute "serious violations of the rights of children", the statement read.

"The Defender of Rights considers that repatriation policies 'on a case-by-case basis' are no longer tenable today" and that "strong decisions must be adopted regarding their return... to France as soon as possible."

There are roughly 350 French nationals at crowded, dangerous camps and prisons in northeast Syria. Around 200 of them are children.

France has repatriated only a fraction of its citizens from Syria, all children, since the fall of IS in Syria in March 2019. There have been no repatriations since January. 

France's neighbours have repatriated citizens in recent months. Belgium took back six mothers and 10 children earlier this month, while the Netherlands repatriated a mother and children last month.

The ombudsman has been critical in the past of the French government's failure to take back citizens with alleged links to IS.

Other human rights groups, the US, and the Kurdish-led authorities of northeast Syria have all pleaded for countries to take back their citizens, to rehabilitate children, and put adults on trial.