Canada repatriates 14 women, children from Syria’s Roj camp

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Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria have handed over four women and 10 children to a Canadian delegation in readiness for their repatriation, a Kurdish official said.

Western governments have faced mounting criticism for not taking back more of their citizens who travelled to Iraq and Syria to volunteer for ISIS and the Canadian government was successfully sued.

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Thousands of foreign women and children remain in overcrowded displaced persons’ camps in Kurdish-administered northeastern Syria.

“On Wednesday... four wives and 10 children of foreign fighters of Daesh who were living in the Roj camp were handed over to representatives of the Canadian foreign ministry,” said Khaled Ibrahim, an official in the Kurdish administration.

He said the women were aged between 26 and 35, while the children were aged between three and 11.

It was the fourth repatriation carried out by Canada from the overcrowded displaced persons camp of northeastern Syria, Ibrahim said.

On January 21, a Canadian federal court ordered the government to repatriate 23 citizens, 19 of them women and children, from the Roj and al-Hol camps, without setting a date.

Previously the government of Justin Trudeau had treated ISIS family members in Syria on a case-by-case basis, and in four years only a handful of women and children had been repatriated.

Since the destruction of ISIS governance across Syria and Iraq in 2019, more than 42,400 foreign adults and children with alleged ties to ISIS have been held in camps in Syria, according to Human Rights Watch.

They include around 30 Canadian citizens, 10 of them children, the rights group said in January.

Repatriating them is a highly sensitive issue for many governments, but there has been mounting criticism of their reluctance to bring back their own nationals from the camps.

Last month, UN chief Antonio Guterres called for the swift repatriation of foreigners held in Syria’s al-Hol camp, which is home to more than 50,000 people, nearly half of them children.

After visiting the camps in March, the head of US Central Command, General Michael Kurilla, called for the “repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of the camp residents back into their countries and communities of origin.”

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