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Belgium to repatriate children of jihadists held in Syria refugee camp

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Belgium to repatriate children of jihadists held in Syria refugee camp
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The Belgian government has said it will repatriate the children of jihadists who are nationals of the country from a refugee camp in northeastern Syria.

The measure was announced by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo who said that if the minors stay in the Al-Hol camp there is a significant risk they could become "the terrorists of tomorrow".

"The National Council of Security yesterday confirmed the process of repatriation of the children, the age limit being set at 12 years old," De Croo told the Belgian parliament on Thursday.

The decision involves between 30 and 50 children.

Belgian MEP, Saskia Bricmont has been pushing for their return for years, telling Euronews that it is important both for humanitarian and security reasons.

"The decision to repatriate the children is extremely important and urgent for humanitarian reasons.

"Because they are growing up without drinking water, without proper food, with all the psychological, but also physical consequences that are enormous for children who are at risk of chronic diseases," Bricmont explained.

"And the second reason is security. It has been like this for a long time, but now the situation in the camps is deteriorating.

"The Kurds have lost control of the Al-Hol camp in particular, and many women are re-radicalising, returning to Daesh and therefore it is out of the question that these European children and their mothers return to the Islamic state," she added.

Belgium has also said it will consider repatriating some of the mothers located in the camp, but their cases will be analysed on a case-by-case basis according to De Croo, as some have already been convicted by the Belgian courts and others are targeted by international arrest warrants.

The government’s decision is due to a 2019 Belgian court order, which ruled that the government must take back 10 Syrian children who were born to Islamic State fighters from Belgium.