January 26, 2023
On 24 January 2023, the French government repatriated 32 children and 15 women from detention camps in northeast Syria. The latest repatriation effort follows ongoing pressure from human rights groups for countries to repatriate their citizens, and a judgement from the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of H.F. and Others v France--which ruled that France must reconsider repatriation applications for its nationals detained in northeast Syria.
Since 2019, the camps have operated as detention facilities for thousands of women and children that were found in former Islamic State territories. Many of the women and children there are third-country nationals who have been detained arbitrarily, and are forced to live in dangerous conditions that amount to torture, as detailed in our reports, Abandoned to Torture and Europe’s Guantanamo. Some of the people in the camps have also been stripped of their nationalities to prevent their return home, while others have been refused repatriation by their governments on national security grounds. Children, in particular, have also been deprived of basic human rights as a result of these policies.
However, the ECtHR’s ruling indicates a positive shift away from those hostile practices for many European states, as France’s recent repatriation effort marks its second since the September 2022 judgment. It comes shortly after Spain carried out its first repatriation effort earlier this year, and the UK's first repatriation effort of an adult in October 2022.
RSI welcomes ongoing repatriation efforts by all countries where it is safe for their nationals to return, and calls on states to repatriate families together to avoid forced separation. RSI also urges states to act quickly in their repatriation efforts in order to prevent subjecting their citizens--especially children--to further human rights abuses and the life-threatening risks present in the camps.
Sign up to our mailing list for all the latest news, views and events from Rights and Security International.