France repatriates suspected ISIS families from Syria camps

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France on Tuesday repatriated 10 women and 25 children who were held in prison camps for suspected extremists in northeast Syria, the fourth such operation in a year, the foreign ministry said.

The minors would be handed over to childcare services while the adults would be handed over to the relevant judicial authorities, the ministry said in a statement.

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The French women had voluntarily gone to territories across Syria and Iraq then controlled by ISIS.

They were captured when the extremist group was ousted from its self-declared “caliphate” in 2019.

The return of family members of ISIS fighters who were captured or killed has been a thorny issue for European countries, particularly in France which has suffered ISIS attacks.

In France, any adult who went to the Iraq-Syria zone and remained there is subject to legal proceedings.

Just a year ago France put an end to its “case by case” approach to repatriation, which had earned it condemnation from international bodies.

A total of 16 women and 35 children were brought back to France during the first repatriation operation a year ago, followed in October by the return of 15 women and 40 children.

In January, the foreign ministry announced the repatriation of 15 women and 32 children, a few days after being condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, which said that in refusing to repatriate women and minors in Syria, France was violating the UN Convention against torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.

On Tuesday “France thanked the local administration in northeastern Syria for its cooperation, which made this operation possible”, the foreign ministry said.

Until the summer of 2022, France had opted for targeted repatriation, namely the return of orphans or minors whose mothers had agreed to renounce their parental rights.

Under this policy, only around 30 presumed orphans had thus been repatriated by Paris, the last of which at the start of 2021.

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