January 12, 2023Counter-Terrorism Repatriation Gender International Humanitarian Law Right to Life Citizenship International Security and Rule of Law
On 10 January 2023, the Spanish government announced that it had successfully repatriated 13 children and two women from the Roj detention camp in northeast Syria. This is the first repatriation effort from the camps Spain has undertaken, as Spain has begun "fulfilling its legal obligations which derive from international treaties", according to a government statement.
Since 2019, two primary detention camps in northeast Syria, al-Hol and Roj, have held thousands of children and adults who were found in former Islamic State territories, including many from Europe or the UK (or who have European or British parents). Many of the camps’ detainees are children who are forced to live in tortuous conditions and are experiencing a range of human rights violations, including threats to their lives, as detailed in our reports, Abandoned to Torture and Europe’s Guantanamo. RSI and numerous other human rights and humanitarian organisations have urged the immediate repatriation of people from the camps to avoid serious risks of death, human trafficking, serious injury and other life-altering harms.
Although Spain was previously an outlier in European repatriation efforts, the country's recent efforts reflect a broader positive shift in states’ approach to addressing the situation of their nationals and former nationals in Syria, and follow a number of other repatriations by European states in recent months -- including by the Netherlands and Germany. However, other countries, such as the UK, still lag behind in active repatriation efforts -- especially regarding adults.
RSI welcomes recent and ongoing repatriation efforts by all countries where it would be safe for people returning from the camps to live, and continues to advocate for states to repatriate their nationals and former nationals from northeast Syria at an accelerated rate to avoid subjecting them to further -- potentially deadly -- human rights violations. RSI also more broadly calls on governments to refrain from abandoning their nationals to torture or other serious harms abroad in the name of 'security', and to ensure that repatriation efforts do not separate families or deprive people of their human rights.
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