Children of jihadists adapt well once repatriated, HRW says

The NGO interviewed relatives, foster parents, social workers and teachers of around a hundred children aged between two and 17, all of whom returned from the Iraqi-Syrian zone between 2019 and 2022, in the following seven countries: Germany, France, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Sweden.

It shows that 89% of those questioned believe that the child adapts “very good” Where “quite well“, despite the months spent under the yoke of the Islamic State (IS) organization or in the “horror” IDP camps in northeastern Syria. Only 4% of these people indicate that the child is in difficulty.

In addition, 73% of those questioned say that the child manages “very good” Where “quite well” in the classroom, despite poor access to education during their captivity.

Since 2019, more than 1,500 children have returned, according to HRW. Denmark, Russia or the United States among others have brought back most of their fellow citizens, unlike other countries, including Australia, France or the Netherlands.

Support varies by country.

While in Uzbekistan the children stay with their mother, in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, for example, they are immediately separated, the mother being detained or charged for acts related to IS.

In Sweden, for example, children can be placed under observation for three months in a specialized youth facility before being placed with an extended family, a foster family or an institution.

In Germany, grandparents or other extended family members are usually able to immediately assume responsibility for the care of returning children.

In many cases, the separation takes place without warning, without the possibility for the mother to explain to the child what is happening.“, note HRW. However, the separation with the mother “adds trauma“and should be avoided, pleads the NGO, in favor of”non-custodial alternatives“.

The long delays before placement in the extended family can also “undermine the long-term stability (of the child, Editor’s note)“, underlines the NGO.

About 56,000 people are detained in al-Hol and Roj, two camps in Syria controlled by the Kurds and where violence is endemic and deprivation numerous. They are locked up there”arbitrarily“wives and children of men suspected of belonging to the EI, indicates HRW.

More than 18,000 are from Syria, about 28,000 from Iraq and more than 10,000 from around 60 other countries, HRW said. According to the NGO, more than 60% are children who, for a large majority are under 18 years old and who suffer “hypothermia, malnutrition and preventable diseases“.

They face “growing risks of recruitment, radicalization and trafficking“, alert HRW which urges the States of which they are nationals to repatriate them.

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