BEIRUT (Reuters) – France and the Netherlands have taken custody of French and Dutch orphans of Islamic State fighters in northeast Syria, an official in the Kurdish-led administration there said on Monday.
Authorities in northeast Syria have been urging Western countries to take back citizens who joined Islamic State and their relatives after the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the group’s last enclave this year.
Last week, Kurdish-led authorities said they had repatriated two U.S. women along with six children.
However, few countries have yet seemed willing to take back their citizens, who may be hard to prosecute, and the issue has led to fierce debate in their home countries where there is little public sympathy for the families of jihadists.
The Kurdish-led administration and the SDF have said they cannot indefinitely hold thousands of foreigners, including many unrepentant jihadists, but no clear international policy has emerged over how to handle the issue.
Abdulkarim Omar, co-chair of the foreign relations committee of the administration that runs the northeastern quarter of Syria held by the SDF, said it had handed over the children to foreign ministry delegations from France and the Netherlands.
France took back 12 orphaned French children from Islamic State families and the Netherlands too back two Dutch orphans, he said in Tweets.
Many of the relatives of captured Islamic State fighters are located in al-Hol, a camp for displaced people where aid agencies have warned of dire humanitarian conditions.
(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Angus MacSwan)