A senior United Nations relief official called on governments on Thursday to help resolve the fate of 2,500 foreign children being held among 75,000 people at al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria after fleeing ISIS’s last stronghold.
“Children should be treated first and foremost as victims. Any solutions must be decided on the basis of the best interest of the child,” Panos Moumtzis, Reuters quoted UN regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis as saying at a Geneva briefing.
Solutions must be found “irrespective of children’s age, sex or any perceived family affiliation”, he said.
Save the Children organization revealed in February that more than 2,500 children from more than 30 countries are living in three camps for people displaced in North-East Syria.
It urged the international community to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of all the children, some of which are merely days or weeks old.
In some cases, individuals from overseas who were recruited by ISIS as children are now mothers themselves.
“All children with perceived and actual associations with ISIS are victims of the conflict and must be treated as such. All states whose nationals are trapped in Syria must take responsibility for their citizens, said Save the Children’s Syria Response Director Sonia Khush in a statement.
“While some states have begun to do so, many countries – including several European countries – have yet to take steps to ensure the safety of the children and their families,” she explained.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) manage these camps, which shelter tens of thousands of displaced people and those fleeing the fight, providing them with services within their modest means.
ISIS families are put in special sections and are under heavy guard, which in turn affects ability to access aid and services, according to the organization.
Save the Children called on countries of origin to repatriate these children and their families safely for the purposes of rehabilitation and/or reintegration.
It stressed that agreed international standards have established that access to support for recovery and rehabilitation is critical to resolving such situations. “This access is not currently available in the displacement camps in Syria,” it said.
Source: Asharq Al-Awsat.