Switzerland repatriates sisters from Syria's Al Roj camp

Two Swiss half-sisters were abducted by their mother and taken to join ISIS in 2016

The Kurdish-run Al Hol camp, which holds relatives of suspected ISIS fighters, in Hassakeh governorate, northern Syria. AFP
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Two Swiss half-sisters whose mother took them with her when she joined ISIS in the Middle East in 2016 have been repatriated from a desert camp in north-eastern Syria, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The older girl, now 15, had a severe shrapnel wound to her leg, requiring three operations, while the younger was said to be in poor health.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had repatriated the two minors from Al Roj camp in north-east Syria.

"The children arrived on Swiss soil on December 6 at Geneva airport, having passed through Iraq," it said.

The repatriation, believed to be the first of its kind in Switzerland, had the consent of their mother.

The government had said she was still in the camp and had several nationalities, although her Swiss citizenship had been withdrawn for security reasons. The girls have different fathers in Geneva.

The case had been raised by UN human rights experts in April.

Experts said then that the girls had been abducted in 2016 by their mother, who joined ISIS. A senior Swiss official said at the time that it was working to have the girls sent home.

Al Hol and Al Roj camps, run by Syrian Kurdish forces, hold nationals from about 60 countries who fled from ISIS's last enclaves.

More than 60,000 people, two thirds of them children, are held in camps for families associated with ISIS fighters.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which visits the camps, has described them as a "tragedy in plain sight".

The Swiss Foreign Ministry has reaffirmed its 2019 policy on what it calls "travellers motivated by terrorism", which puts Swiss security first.

Repatriation can only be considered for minors in such situations but some mothers refuse to be separated, the ministry said.

Updated: December 07, 2021, 11:44 PM