The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria handed the group over to a delegation from the Netherlands on Saturday.
The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria handed over to the Netherlands a Dutch woman, her two young sons and a Dutch woman, who were living in a camp for the families of suspected fighters from the ISIL group (ISIS).
A delegation from the Netherlands led by special envoy to Syria Emiel de Bont received the four men on Saturday in the town of Qamishli, at the offices of the Kurdish administration.
The group will be brought home and the Kurdish authorities say that the adult woman is not subject to any criminal charges by their administration.
The move was a small step towards solving a complicated problem for countries in Europe and the Middle East – what to do with the thousands of their citizens who have traveled to ISIL-held territories in Syria and in Iraq.
At a press conference for the handover, De Bont said the four men lived in a small settlement known as the Roj camp, containing mostly Western women who had traveled to Syria and Iraq, as well as their children.
“This is a very specific consular legal mission that my government has decided to undertake because a Dutch court has issued rulings in these specific cases,” De Bont said. He did not give further details on the decisions.
“So we are here to serve the rule of law and do what we can to help with due process,” he added.
“Most dangerous camp”
It was the second time that Dutch nationals had been repatriated from camps in northeastern Syria, where thousands of foreigners and Iraqis live since the armed group’s defeat in 2019. Two Dutch orphans were repatriated in June 2019.
European countries have been reluctant to repatriate their nationals living in such circumstances. Most fear that there is not enough evidence to judge those who have joined the group, or fear they will maintain links with ISIL.
A Dutch court ruled last year that authorities are not obliged to repatriate a group of 23 Dutch women and their 56 children currently imprisoned in northern Syria. Experts said there would be exceptions for individual cases.
At least 220 of these children of Dutch nationality remain in Syria or Turkey, 75% of whom are under the age of four and were born in the region to parents of Dutch nationality.
The Syrian Kurdish authorities, who were part of the international coalition that fought ISIS until the fall of the so-called “caliphate” in March 2019, say the camps where more than 70,000 family members are staying. ‘ISIS pose a security threat and a burden. The Kurds are still battling fleeing fighters and fear the camps may also hold active ISIS members.
“The international community must assume its responsibilities regarding the bringing to justice of these militants and the repatriation of their nationals”, declared the Syrian Kurdish official Abdulkarim Omar.
He asked for help managing another camp, the larger and sprawling al-Hol, which he called “the world’s most dangerous camp”.
Aid groups have described the dire conditions in al-Hol, which the Syrian Kurdish authorities have struggled to control and where killings are on the increase. They are said to be carried out by ISIL supporters as a punishment for those who deviate from the group’s ideology.
Thousands of people are also held in prisons, with formal legal procedures and trials held infrequently.