ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local authorities in northeastern Syria on Tuesday handed over seven children belonging to members of the so-called Islamic State to a Swedish delegation.
The transfer was made at the Faysh Khabur border crossing, also known as the “Semalka” crossing, which connects Syria’s northeast with the Kurdistan Region.
The Swedish delegation met with the foreign relations department in northern and eastern Syria to receive seven children of Swedish nationality whose parents were killed in Syria fighting for the Islamic State, local Kurdish media reported.
The delegation was received by the Deputy Head of the Department of Foreign Relations in North and East Syria, Sana Deham, and the Director of the Women’s Body for North and East Syria, Rokan Mullah Ibrahim.
After the children were handed over, an extradition contract was signed. The Swedish delegation then returned to the Kurdistan Region with the children where they are expected to repatriate them to Sweden.
In April, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström said the country wants to facilitate the return of children of Swedish nationals who traveled overseas to join the terror group.
Wallström wrote in a Facebook post that the Swedish government was “working intensively so that children with a connection to Sweden who are in Syria get the help they need.”
“There should not be any doubt that the government is doing what we can for these children and, if possible, they will be brought to Sweden.”
Local Kurdish-led authorities in northern Syria have urged foreign states to take back female nationals suspected of membership to the Islamic State and their children.
The US has also called on Western countries to take responsibility and take their citizens back. So far, a majority of them have not responded to the calls.
Nadim Houry, a terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said Syrian Kurdish authorities who played a significant role in defeating the Islamic State had shouldered a heavy burden by holding countless numbers of foreign detainees.
Houry noted that Sweden’s decision to repatriate the children is an important step for the youth who are the real victims.
“They [the children] were brought [to Syria] by their parents who were born [in Sweden], and their future is in their home countries,” he told Kurdistan 24.
The HRW director called on other nations to launch similar efforts.
“The future of children cannot be detention in the camp; they need to return to their home countries,” Houry explained. “The sooner it happens, the better.”
“We hope that these efforts will actually build up to a more sustained return to end the situation in the camps.”
The Al Hol camp in Syria witnessed an increase in numbers of residents during an offensive by the Syrian Kurdish-led forces, backed by the US-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State in its last bastion of Baghouz which ended in March.
The camp has been far over its capacity for residents and currently houses around 70,000 people, many of them women accused of Islamic State membership and their children. This figure also includes a large number of foreigners, including people from Iraq, Central Asia, Europe, and the US among other countries.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany