PARIS (HPD) — France on Tuesday repatriated a new group of women and children from areas of Syria once controlled by the extremist group Islamic State, the latest operation involving French nationals stranded in those settlements.
There are 32 minors and 15 women, explained the national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office. The women, between the ages of 19 and 56, were in custody, some on prior arrest warrants. The children were left in the care of social services.
The returnees were being held in a huge and overcrowded camp in northern Syria containing thousands of women and children, according to Kurdish authorities in the region.
Around 50,000 Syrians and Iraqis are crammed into tents in al-Hol camp, which is also surrounded by a fence. Some 20,000 of the total are children; the rest are wives or widows of fighters from the Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIS.
Before the latest repatriation, the Kurdish authorities met with a French delegation in the city of Qamishli, in north-eastern Syria.
France has repatriated women and children from camps in northeastern Syria in successive waves since the territorial defeat of ISIS in 2019.
Many European countries were slow to allow the return of women and children from areas where the radical militia operated for fear that they could become radicalized on their return.
France is the European country with the most citizens attached to the ranks of the Islamic State and has been especially suspicious when it comes to repatriating them.
The authorities have insisted on treating each case separately, a lengthy and complex process criticized by human rights groups. French officials have also insisted that adults, both men and women, who have fought with the militia be tried in the country where they committed their crimes.