Iraq repatriates more than 500 residents of Syria's Al Hol camp

It is considered to be one of the most over crowded with suspected ISIS extremists

The Kurdish-run Al Hol camp, which holds relatives of suspected ISIS fighters in the north-eastern Hasakeh governorate. AFP
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Iraq repatriated more than 500 residents of Syria's Al Hol displacement camp that houses relatives of suspected ISIS extremists, the US army said in a statement on Monday.

The US military's Central Command, the headquarters of US forces in the Middle East, confirmed that “154 families, comprising of 582 people” were transferred by the Iraqi authorities to the Jeddah-I camp on February 26.

The Jeddah-I camp is near the northern city of Mosul and has been described by Iraqi authorities as a “rehabilitation” centre for those returning from Syria.

“Iraq continues to make progress in the repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of Iraqis residing at the Al Hol camp for displaced persons in north-east Syria,” the Central Command said on Twitter.

Gen Michael Kurilla, commander of the Central Command, commended the Iraqi government for its “constructive and courageous role in this repatriation”.

Gen Kurilla said Al Hol “has long served as a flashpoint for human suffering and a recruitment opportunity for ISIS. This is why repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of these residents is crucial for Iraq, the region and for the enduring defeat of ISIS”.

Since May 2021, hundreds of Iraqi families have been transferred from Al Hol to Jaddah-I.

For years, Iraqi authorities have attempted to close Al Hol camp citing security concerns.

Iraq’s National Security Adviser Qassem Al Araji has been pushing foreign governments to repatriate their citizens from Al Hol, and has urged rapid dismantlement of the camp.

Mr Al Araji's calls were reiterated by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein who said last year that Baghdad was determined to repatriate all the families in the Syrian camp after security checks were completed.

Since last year, Iraq, whose border with Syria is more than 600km long, has started to build a wall to stop members of ISIS from infiltrating into its territory.

The Kurdish-run Al Hol camp is home to more than 50,000 people, including family members of suspected ISIS militants, as well as displaced Syrians and Iraqi refugees.

It is the largest camp for displaced people who fled after ISIS was dislodged from its last stronghold in Syria in 2019 and remains one of the biggest unresolved humanitarian issues in the region.

People residing in the camp are either banned from leaving the tent city, where they live in squalid conditions, or have nowhere else to go.

Al Hol is considered to be one the biggest overcrowded camps in the region and is fewer than 10km from the Iraqi border.

ISIS seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and ruled brutally until local forces with the help of an international coalition managed to oust the terrorist group.

Iraq declared victory against ISIS in late 2017 but fighters loyal to the group have continued to conduct attacks across the country.

Updated: February 27, 2023, 11:38 AM