ISIS fighters' children 'left to fester' in Syria camps, says charity

Save the Children says young relatives of militants could be stuck for decades if repatriations are not speeded up

More than 25,000 children are stuck in the Kurdish-run camps in Al Hol, pictured, and Roj in north-eastern Syria, Save The Children says. AP
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Children held in Syrian camps set up for relatives of suspected ISIS fighters may remain stuck there for 30 years, an international charity has said.

Save the Children on Wednesday called for the pace of repatriations to accelerate.

"It will take 30 years before foreign children stuck in unsafe camps in north-east Syria can return home if repatriations continue at the current rate," the charity said.

The call coincided with the third anniversary of the fall of the ISIS group's self-proclaimed caliphate.

The US-backed Kurdish military operation sent tens of thousands of the proto-state's residents to detention camps, including many foreigners.

Save The Children said 18,000 Iraqi children and 7,300 from 60 other countries are stuck in the Kurdish-run Al Hol and Roj camps, in north-eastern Syria.

"The longer children are left to fester in Al Hol and Roj, the more dangers they face," said the charity's Syria response director, Sonia Khush.

UN data shows that about 56,000 people live in Al Hol, an overcrowded camp plagued by murders and escape attempts.

In 2021, at least 74 children died there, including eight who were murdered, figures compiled by Save the Children show.

Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called on foreign states to repatriate their citizens but Western countries have mostly returned them in stops and starts, fearing a domestic political backlash.

"These children have done nothing wrong," Ms Khush said. "When will leaders take responsibility and bring them home?"

Updated: March 23, 2022, 4:45 AM