July 13, 2022Featured Article Counter-Terrorism Repatriation Gender International Security and Rule of Law
The United Kingdom (UK) is becoming increasingly isolated in its refusal to repatriate any British women and the majority of British children from squalid, life-threatening camps in northeast Syria, Rights & Security International (RSI) said today. RSI has just launched its Global Repatriations Tracker, which shows the estimated number of children, women and men repatriated from northeast Syria by each country since the start of 2019.
“The UK is lagging far behind its international allies in bringing to an end the torture and suffering of its nationals and former nationals trapped in northeast Syria,” said Emily Ramsden, Senior Officer on Migration and Citizenship at RSI. “While government responses to the situation of nationals held in northeast Syria have been overwhelmingly shrouded in secrecy, our new tool clearly shows the importance of continuing advocacy for repatriations from these camps that are so dangerous for both children and adults.”
RSI’s new Global Repatriations Tracker shows that most European countries have repatriated many children and women associated with them from camps in northeast Syria for people allegedly found in former Islamic State territory, with a notable increase in these efforts in the past year. Since June 2021, a combined total of 206 children and 76 women have been repatriated by Albania, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Ukraine. All these repatriation efforts brought back both children and women.
The United States and other countries, notably Kazakhstan and North Macedonia, have repatriated most of their nationals – including men – from northeast Syria. The US has long been calling on other countries to do the same. At a summit of the international coalition against ISIS in June 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the UK and France to repatriate their citizens. Since then, France has repatriated an additional 35 children and 16 women.
In contrast, the UK has dragged its heels, refusing to repatriate any women, and repatriating only a very small number of children from the camps. Since 2019, the UK has repatriated only nine children, leaving an estimated 30-60 children and 16 women in the camps.
The UK’s refusal to repatriate people from the camps has potentially grave consequences. RSI has previously documented the torturous and life-threatening conditions that exist in two camps – al Hol and Roj – in northeast Syria. More than 100 people have been murdered in al Hol alone in the last year, according to UN reports. Many of those murdered have been women. This highlights that the lives of women and children in the camps continue to be at risk every day they are left in the camps.
“The UK should follow the example set by several of its international allies and repatriate its nationals and former nationals from northeast Syria,” concluded Ramsden. “It is the only response to this crisis that respects the spirit of the human rights treaties the UK has signed.”
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