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Women with children walk at Camp Roj, where relatives of people suspected of belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group are held
France has repatriated 47 nationals from the Roj camp in northeastern Syria, which holds those with suspected links to the so-called Islamic StateImage: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

France repatriates 47 women, children from Syria camp

January 24, 2023

French officials said the women were handed over to judicial authorities, and several have been placed in custody. France has been under pressure to repatriate detained wives and children of alleged "IS" fighters.


France on Tuesday repatriated 15 women and 32 children who had been held in a detention camp in northwestern Syria, as Western countries continue to face humanitarian pressure to repatriate their nationals from prison camps holding people with suspected ties to militant groups like the so-called Islamic State (IS). 

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the repatriated adults were handed over to the "competent judicial authorities," whereas the minors were delivered to child assistance services and will undergo medical and social monitoring.

A statement by the French Ministry of Justice and anti-terrorism department added that there were arrest warrants for seven of the repatriated woman, while eight had been placed in custody.

The women are aged 19 to 59.

What we know about the repatriations

The 47 repatriated French nationals were all brought from the Roj prison camp in northeastern Syria, located some 15 kilometers (9 miles) away from Syria's borders with Turkey and Iraq. 

According to UNICEF, the Roj camp contains more than 2,500 people, more than half of them children.

For nearly a decade, thousands of people from across the world, including European and other Western countries, flocked to northern Syria and Iraq to join "IS," which captured swathes of land within the two countries from 2014 until its fall in 2019.

When the so-called "Islamic caliphate" fell, "IS" supporters and family members were taken to Kurdish-run prisons and detention camps in eastern Syria. 

To the south of Roj, the larger Al-hol camp holds more than 50,000 people, and is notorious for overcrowded, squalid conditions. 

shows children walking among shelters at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp, which holds relatives of suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighters on August 2, 2021
Humanitarian conditions within the camps have often been deplored, especially due to overcrowdingImage: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Why is repatriation controversial?

Humanitarian organizations have been pressing countries of origin for years to repatriate their nationals in order to alleviate pressure on local authorities.

The conditions within the camps have been described as dire, mostly due to overcrowding and a lack of resources.

However, France has been particularly reluctant to bring back those who left to join "IS," with the government arguing that the return of potentially radicalized individuals poses security risks in a country that has seen many terrorist attacks in recent years.

This is the third large-scale repatriation from Syrian camps by the French government. Last October, 15 women and 40 children were repatriated, preceded by 16 women and 35 children last July.

Tuesday's repatriation follows a statement by the UN Committee against Torture, which said France was violating UN conventions against torture for failing to repatriate its nationals from prison camps in Syria.

rmt/kb (AFP, Reuters)

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