France repatriates children and women from jihadist internment camps

In France, the government aims for a change in its policy by allowing a first flight of 51 minors and their mothers from the center of Al Roj, Syria.

Macron –

The call that has been waiting for so many years it didn’t even come this July 5th. That day, early in the morning, two planes chartered by the French government landed in Paris with 51 of its citizens repatriated from the jihadist prison camp of Al Roj in Syria; 16 women and 35 children. Marc and Suzanne Lopez’s heart beat faster when they heard that I plane had arrived.

France deals with jihadism

His son Léonard joined the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria in 2015, and these two retired teachers were waiting for the flight of their four grandchildren trapped in jihadist hell. But the phone doesn’t ring. The little ones were not on the list of the first mass repatriation carried out by France since the fall of the last stronghold Syrian IS in 2019.

However, the Lopezes are more hopeful today it never. A profound change appears to have taken place in the French government, and the relatives of the children still trapped in Syria are convinced that the final countdown has already begun for the return of all French children to their country.

“It’s a total change,” celebrates Marc Lopez in a telephone conversation. Until now, France has maintained the “case by case” doctrine, which only allowed for the repatriation of children from internment camps, and only if they were orphans, unaccompanied minors or their mothers did they agree to return them on their own. At least since 2019, Paris had not returned adults, given that they wanted to had to be tested on site.

The announcement of the first massive operation repatriation with adults at the beginning of the month is a clear signal that “there are no more obstacles to a global repatriation”, agrees Vincent Brengarth, lawyer for Margaux Dubreuil, another French woman also still in Syria with her three children. At least another 150 minors of French nationality and up to a hundred women continue living in very precarious conditions in Syrian camps manned by Kurdish forces.

No one in the government has confirmed so far publicly that the “case by case” approach he still championed tooth and nail at the beginning of the year has been abandoned. Environment Member of Parliament Hubert Julien-Laferrière, which supports the repatriation of minors, does not believe it will. «The government tries to communicate the minimum, we all know that case by case policy is not supported, but public opinion is scared, this case is scary,” he says.

Keep in mind that the same president in 2019Emmanuel Macron, categorically denied that a massive repatriation operation was underway, as various media had reported in great detail. His denial came after an opinion poll revealed that over 80% of French people opposed it and that up to 67% preferred that minors remained in Iraq or Syria.

In 2019, Macron categorically denied that a massive repatriation operation was underway

However, times have changed. Julien-Laferrière recognizes himself “Surprised” by the fact that the repatriation on July 5 did not make noise in a National Assembly where the opposition is stronger than ever. There has also been no stir in public opinion is developing: A year ago, a hundred personalities signed a forum on Le Monde, where they called on the government to “Repatriate the French children immediately who, victims of inhuman and degrading treatment, are slowly dying in Syrian camps.

Isis fighters
Isis fighters –

It was the first appeal by French civil society “On a taboo subject both in public opinion and in government,” says the newspaper. After repatriation, the State Secretary for Children, Charlotte Caubel said the children of the jihadists “They are not responsible for the actions of their parents” and must “also be treated as victims”. Even some associations of victims of terrorism, he stressed, they asked for his repatriation.

When asked directly if this is the end of “case by case”, he avoided giving a resounding yes, but suggested that the repatriation of “35 children is not case by case”. The government did not explain either so it can be done now and not before. Such a complicated operation takes time to plan and it is clear that the July 5th move had been decided upon for months. But it only took place once the election cycle was over of the presidential and parliamentary elections, and when Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne’s new government was already underway.

He was also visibly waiting for it to end at the end of June the long trial for the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015, which served to close the wounds and prove that France is able to judge jihadist terrorists. The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, was careful to ensure that “very important additional funds” were made available to ensure that the arrival of returnees did not constitutes a security problem.

The 16 women have already been charged of terrorist organization and is in custody pending trial, as well as one of the minors who have reached the age of majorityafter returning home and that she was suspected of being radicalized. The lawyer Brengarth recalls another reason for the change of course: the legal “pressure” that France has immediately for refusing to bring the minors.

Only Spain, which also did not repatriate the 17 Spanish children who is still in Syria along with three Spanish women (and a Moroccan with Spanish children) and Britain who has at least thirty children in Syria, they shared the politics of Paris. National bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission or the Ombudsman have criticized it and countries such as Germany or Belgium has been speeding up repatriations in recent times.

In February, the UN Committee on the rights of the child, accusing France of “violating the rights of French children detained in Syria by not repatriating them”. Family lawyers have brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 2021, whose sentence is pending.

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