Children returned from Syria’s Daesh camps are building a new life: Human Rights Watch
LONDON: Children repatriated from camps run by former Daesh families in northeastern Syria are “making new lives in their homelands,” Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday.
It added that the success of repatriation efforts in countries like France, Germany, the UK and Sweden should encourage Western governments to take in more children with national citizenship from former Daesh territories.
The report, titled “‘My son is just another child’: experiences of children repatriated from camps for Daesh suspects and their families in north-eastern Syria,” documents the progress of 100 children repatriated between 2019 and 2022 became.
The 63-page report found that the majority of children are doing well in school, pursuing a variety of hobbies and have been given a “new chance at life” after the “horror of the camps”.
A survey conducted for the report found that 89 percent of respondents — family members, foster parents, social workers and teachers — said a returned child was “very good” or “fairly good” at adjustment.
Regarding education, 73 percent reported that a child in their care does “very well” or “fairly well” at school.
The report found evidence of significant emotional and behavioral trauma in some of the returned children, but argued that learning assistance and psychosocial support could further promote reintegration.
About 56,000 people, mostly women and children, remain in Syria’s Al-Hol and Roj camps. Although most detainees are from Syria and neighboring Iraq, more than 10,000 detainees come from countries around the world, including major Western nations. HRW said nearly 80 percent of the children in the camps are under the age of 12.
Regional Kurdish authorities overseeing the camps have warned they lack the resources needed to maintain long-term care for the detainees.
Conditions in the camps have deteriorated significantly in recent years, with frequent clashes between Daesh supporters and other prisoners.
And as a result of poor living conditions, hundreds of children in the camps have died from a range of diseases, including hypothermia, malnutrition and preventable diseases.
Jo Becker, Head of Children’s Rights Advocacy at HRW, said: “Children rescued from the horrors of the camps are doing well in school, making friends and building new lives in their home countries. Despite unimaginable suffering, many are re-integrating remarkably well.
“The biggest risk is not taking the children home, but leaving them in the camps where they risk death, illness, recruitment by ISIS (Daesh) and indefinite detention for their parents’ alleged crimes.
“Countries with nationals in the camps should urgently allow them to return home and do their best to keep mothers and children together.”
A grandfather in Sweden, whose multiple grandchildren were repatriated in 2019, said: “It is possible, quite possible, that children will be reintegrated and restored. My grandchildren are proof of that.
“They have made an incredible recovery… All children should have the opportunity to have a new chance in life.”
As of 2019, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Sweden, Tajikistan, the US and Uzbekistan have successfully repatriated most of their nationals from camps in Syria. However, Britain has only repatriated 10 children and Canada only four.
In October, Australia repatriated four women and 13 children in the country’s first attempt to bring back nationals from Syria since 2019. On October 31, the Netherlands repatriated 12 women and 28 children.