France has brought home seven children of French jihadists from northern Syria, the latest in a continuing a repatriation process that began after the fall of Islamic State armed group’s so-called caliphate in March 2019. Families of the jihadists are unhappy with the slow rate of repatriation.
The children, aged between two and 11 years old, had been living in Kurdish-run camps. They were turned over to judicial authorities and taken into care by social services, according to the French foreign ministry, which did not provide additional details.
“France thanks local leaders in the north east of Syria for their authorization and cooperation,” said the ministry in a statement.
France has so far brought home 35 of the over 200 French children in Syria. Their families have criticised the slow rate of repatriation, both of the children, and the 150 adults accompanying them.
"This operation leaves a bitter taste, even if it proves that France has the capacity to repatriate who it wants, when it wants," wrote the Unified family collective, that brings together several families of French jihadists.
The previous repatriation brought home ten children in June 2000.
France has insisted it will only take back children, and their mothers (and their husbands) must remain in Syria to face local justice. But many of the women have refused to be separated from their children.
"Waiting for each mother to ‘crack’ one by one to repatriate their children is not a policy of protection,” said the Unified family collective.
Rights groups have been pressuring France to repatriate more children, whom the UN has said are being held in deplorable conditions.
Unicef France welcomed the latest repatriation, calling on France not to abandon the others.
Kurdish officials have also been pressuring countries to take back their citizens, warning that they do not have the resources to guard prisoners indefinitely.