ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi officials are pushing for the creation of a new detention camp aimed at isolating as many as 30,000 Iraqis who were captured in the last territory Kurdish forces liberated from the Islamic State in Syria in late March.
“The goal is to select a special place to contain those people,” said one official, as quoted by The Washington Post on Thursday. “It’s for security reasons, but also to keep them alive. If they return to their areas, they’ll be singled out for revenge attacks by people who lost relatives to the Islamic State.”
Most of the returnees are women and children. The officials, some from the Ministry of Migration and Displacement, say it would be risky to send them to various displacement camps already operating across Iraq.
Humanitarian groups have raised serious concerns about moving all the detainees to a single, mass facility, warning that such isolation could not only limit any chances of them reintegrating into Iraqi society, but could also increase their radicalization.
In recent months, Baghdad has been negotiating an agreement to repatriate the civilians who are now under the control of the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at the sprawling al-Hol camp in northern Syria. Iraqis who were captured that are classified as fighters are in separate detention facilities in Syria and Iraq.
According to Iraq, roughly 20,000 Iraqi nationals have voluntarily returned from Syria and over 1,700 families now at al-Hol have registered with the United Nations for future voluntary repatriation.
“We’re doing everything we can to avoid the prison camp scenario,” one aid worker told The Washington Post.
On Tuesday, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that an estimated 45,000 children born under Islamic State rule who are already housed in various displacement camps in Iraq are missing civil documentation and may face total exclusion from Iraqi society, including being barred from attending school, denied access to healthcare, and deprived of their most basic rights.
As they reach adulthood, these children risk being denied state-recognized marriages, owning property, or even being formally employed.
“We face a possible human time-bomb. Allowing these children to have an education, healthcare, simply the right to exist, is key to ensuring a sustainable future for them and for the country,” the NRC said.
“A society cannot be at peace if it allows a generation of stateless children in its midst.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany