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France: More women and children returned from IS camps in Syria


PARIS – France on Tuesday repatriated another group of women and children from former IS-controlled areas in Syria, the latest return of French nationals stranded in camps there.

The group included 32 minors and 15 adult women, the French counter-terrorism prosecutor’s office said. It said the women, ranging in age from 19 to 56, were being held in custody – some on the basis of arrest warrants previously issued against them. The children were placed in the care of protective services.

The returnees were held in a sprawling, miserable and lawless camp in northeastern Syria, which Kurdish authorities say holds tens of thousands of women and children in the region.

About 50,000 Syrians and Iraqis are crammed into tents in the fenced al-Hol camp. Nearly 20,000 of them are children; the rest are mostly the wives or widows of IS fighters.

The camp also has a separate, heavily guarded annex housing 2,000 women from 57 other countries and about 8,000 of their children.

Before the latest repatriation, Kurdish authorities met with a French delegation in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli on Monday.

France has brought home women and children from camps in northeastern Syria in successive waves since the territorial defeat of IS in 2019.

Many European countries have been slow to allow the return of women and children from areas where IS operated, fearing they would turn violent against their home countries.

France saw more of its citizens join IS in Syria than any other European country, and was especially wary of getting them back.

The authorities insisted on repatriating civilians and their children on a case-by-case basis, a lengthy and cumbersome process that has been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups. French authorities have also insisted that adults, men and women who have fought with IS be prosecuted in the country where they committed crimes.

Hogir Al Abdo contributed to this report from Qamishli, Syria.

This story has been corrected to show that the spelling of the Syrian city is Qamishli, not Qamilishi.

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