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Brussels seeks to bring home children of Belgian jihadists in Syria

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

New York, United States   /   Fri, February 14, 2020   /   07:00 am
Brussels seeks to bring home children of Belgian jihadists in Syria Displaced people gather before boarding a bus waiting outside the Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria's Al-Hasakeh governorate on June 3, 2019, as Kurdish authorities started sending home 800 Syrian women and children who had been evacuated from the Islamic State group's (AFP/Delil Souleiman)

Belgium is working to bring home all children of Belgian jihadists held in refugee camps in Syria, providing their mothers' consent, the country's top diplomat told AFP on Thursday.

So far, 42 children in two camps in northeastern Syria have been identified as those of Belgian jihadists, according to aides of Belgian Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin. 

Brussels first wants the Kurds, who control the camps, to know that it wants to take back all children of Belgian nationality, said Goffin, who also holds Belgium's defense portfolio.

"Obviously, mothers must agree," said Goffin, speaking on the sidelines of meetings at the United Nations, where his country chairs the Security Council in February.

Goffin visited a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, which he said are nothing like the "appalling" condition of the camps in Syria.

"But what I have seen in Jordan is already unbearable. I am told that what is happening in Syria is not comparable, and that it is much more serious," he said.

Such repatriation, Goffin said, is allowed under international law.

The ideal solution "is to bring the children to the Iraqi-Syrian border. Let's see what can be done," he said.

The minister, however, declined to set a timetable, and said an operation could be organized with other countries in a similar situation such as France.

Belgium has identified 42 children of Belgian jihadis in Syria.

Thirty children and 13 mothers were counted in the Al-Hol camp, and 12 children and 10 mothers in the Al-Roj camp, Goffin's aides said. Both camps are located in north-eastern Syria.

At least four of the mothers, however, have begun legal procedures through the Belgian legal system to stop being separated from their children.