Mother sues France over underage son’s Syria trip

The 16-year-old boy left the southern French city of Nice nearly a year ago

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A mother whose teen traveled unsupervised to Syria is suing the French government, alleging it should have stopped the underage boy from leaving the country.

The 16-year-old boy left the southern French city of Nice nearly a year ago, heading to Syria via Turkey for what he described to his mother as humanitarian work. He is still there under uncertain circumstances, the woman told Le Parisien newspaper in a story published Monday.

“He told me he was going to sleep over at a friend’s house,” she said. “The next day, he hadn’t returned and he didn’t answer his cell phone, which was not like him. The other mothers in the neighborhood told me he had left with friends for Turkey in order to reach Syria.”

In 2012, an administrative change by the French government allowed minors with valid ID to leave the country without parental authorization. Since then, dozens of French boys and girls - as well as many adults and families - have left for Syria via Turkey.

Police have a responsibility to stop a child from heading to a war zone, said Samia Maktouf, the family’s lawyer.

In a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press, the family said the boy was able to reach Syria with only his national identity card - he had left behind even his passport. By the time she knew enough to warn police, according to the complaint, he had likely already left the country.

The experience is echoed by that of several French families, who complain that the government lets children leave for the war zone and makes no provisions for their return.

France’s Interior Ministry did not respond to requests for comment but in a response to Le Parisien said the boy left the country legally.

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