20 October 2022 - Syria

As 40 French children return home from Syrian camps, other repatriations need to speed up before winter, warns Save the Children

An internally displaced child in the Al Hol displacement camp in North East Syria, 2020. Photo by Muhannad Khaled/ Save the Children

AMMAN, 20 October  – France must urgently do more to follow through with recent moves to recognise the rights of children stranded in camps in North East Syria, Save the Children said today, as the country repatriated 40 children and 15 women.

The child rights organisation said that timing is crucial as more than 100 French nationals, including many children, still remain stranded in Al Hol and Roj[i] and brace for bitter winter weather with nothing but tents to protect them from the elements.

This latest repatriation is the third from the French government this year, bringing the number of French children who have returned home to 117 since 2019.

The news comes more than a month after the European Court for Human Rights ordered the French Government to review the cases of several of their citizens, including three children, detained in Syria. Earlier this year, the UN Child Rights Committee ruled that France had violated the rights of French children stranded in the camps by failing to repatriate them[ii]

Beat Rohr, Save the Children’s Interim Syria Country Director, said:

Of course, every repatriation is progress, but this is still achingly slow. In just two months, temperatures in North East Syria will be freezing, exposing French children and thousands more from other countries, to numerous health risks.

Bringing home these children will ensure they can start to recover from their experiences and begin a normal life, which is impossible in overcrowded displacement camps with little access to basic services in a volatile area. The remaining French children as well as all the other children are desperate for this chance – just so they can have a future to look forward to.”

About 11,000 foreign children and women remain in Roj and Al Hol camps, where the risks to children have only increased due to escalating violence and a fast-spreading cholera outbreak across the region.

Last month, a six-year-old Russian child reportedly died after being run over by a truck in the Al Hol Annex camp, while other children recently witnessed their mother’s dead body abandoned by the side of the road as killings in the camp increased by 250% in the second quarter of this year.

Save the Children research from a year ago said that children left in the camps are “wasting away”, with crumbling healthcare and education services, and more than half of households in Roj being aware of child labour among children under the age of 11.  

Several European countries have repatriated nationals from North East Syria camps recently, but the current rate of repatriation is far too slow. Children’s lives and wellbeing are at stake, and more urgent action is needed.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

  • Save the Children provides protection and support services in Al Hol and Roj camps, including child-friendly spaces. This includes recreational activities, such as sport, music, art and storytelling, combined with psychosocial support. Save the Children also provides specialised case management support for children with particular needs as well as nutrition and education services.
  • Save the Children’s Syria Response Office operates out of three offices in North East Syria: Raqqa, Derek and Hasakah, with operations in both camp and community settings, implementing child protection, education, nutrition, livelihood, WASH and distributing non-food items.

         I.            Public Senat,  Retour des enfants de djihadistes : Éric Dupond-Moretti défend une position conciliant « humanité et grande prudence, 5 October, 2022

       II.            UN, France Violated the Rights of French Children Detained in Syrian Camps, 24 February 2022

 

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