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France repatriates dozens of children, women from Syria camps

France has repatriated 40 children and 15 women from camps in Syria holding family members of suspected Daesh militants, the foreign ministry said.

“The minors have been transferred to child aid services,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday. “The adults have been handed to judicial authorities.”

The repatriation came a week after a European rights court condemned France over its refusal to return two women detained in Syria. 

It marked the largest such transfer since July when France, following pressure from campaigners, returned 35 children and 16 mothers from the Syrian camps.

The camps are controlled by the YPG, the Syrian branch of the PKK terror organisation.

PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation by Türkiye, the US and the EU and has been responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

The French government had long refused mass repatriations of the hundreds of French children in camps in Syria, dealing with them on a case-by-case basis that rights groups criticised as deliberately slow.

READ MORE: French woman who died in Syria camp could have been saved – lawyer

Facing dilemma

Last week the European Court of Human Rights condemned Paris over its refusal to return two women and said it should promptly re-examine the request by the women’s parents to let them come home.

But it did not issue a blanket ruling that France returns all citizens held in Syria since the fall of Daesh, as sought by rights groups and Western allies including the United States.

Western countries have faced a dilemma over how to handle their citizens detained in Syria since the end of military operations against Daesh there in 2019.

Thousands of Europeans decided to join Daesh as fighters, often taking their wives and children to live in the territory then controlled by the terror group in Iraq and Syria.

Before July, France had prioritised its security over welfare concerns for the detained, pointing to a series of terror attacks by Daesh militants, including the November 2015 assaults on Paris that left 130 people dead. 

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