Iraq preparing for new repatriation from al-Hol camp: SOHR

The delegation is reportedly preparing a new batch of Iraqis to be repatriated from the camp.
A picture shows the al-Hol camp, which holds relatives of suspected Islamic State group fighters in the northeastern Hasakah governorate, on Dec. 6, 2021 (Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP)
A picture shows the al-Hol camp, which holds relatives of suspected Islamic State group fighters in the northeastern Hasakah governorate, on Dec. 6, 2021 (Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An official delegation from the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement visited northeast Syria's al-Hol camp to register the names of Iraqis wishing to return to their country, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) war monitor reported on Thursday.

In June, a high-level joint Iraqi-UN delegation, including the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and Iraq's National Security Service chief, visited the camp to evaluate the situation. 

Iraqi officials have recognized the lingering threat posed by the camp, which houses a large number of ISIS sympathizers. 

"The decision from the Iraqi government is to return all displaced persons, including the Iraqis present in al-Hol camp," Ali Abdullah Albedeiri, the Chairman of the National Committee on the Implementation of the National Strategy to Prevent Violent Extremism, earlier told Kurdistan 24. 

At least 2,500 Iraqis have been repatriated from the camp to date, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission Iraq (UNAMI).

Read More: High-level UN delegation visits Syria's al-Hol camp

According to UN data, al-Hol is the largest camp for refugees and internally displaced persons in Syria. It hosts at least 56,000 people, the majority of whom are Syrians and Iraqis. 

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have repeatedly called on foreign countries to repatriate their citizens.

Moreover, the AANES, in cooperation with Iraq, has stepped up measures to repatriate Iraqis and allow Syrians in the camp to return home with tribal guarantees.

In early June, Iraq repatriated 152 Iraqi families from Syria's al-Hol camp. Furthermore, the SDF handed over 50 male ISIS suspects to the Iraqi government.

Read More: Iraq repatriates 152 Iraqi families from Syria's al-Hol camp

There have been continuous attempts by smugglers to smuggle out ISIS families. There has also been a series of killings by suspected ISIS cells. 

The Internal Security Forces (known as Asayish in Kurdish) recently prevented an attempt to smuggle 56 members of ISIS families from the infamous camp.

The SDF has warned that ISIS is plotting a large-scale attack on al-Hol in the future.

In a recent report on ISIS activity in northeast Syria, the Syria-based Rojava Information Centre (RIC) said that Asayish made at least 19 arrests during a major July 22 raid in the sprawling camp. 

"Security forces remain on high alert over a possible attack on the camp despite low number of murders this month," the report said.

Moreover, the RIC also reported that Asayish on Wednesday found trenches dug in the camp, which they suspect ISIS members used for hiding after committing crimes there. 

According to the latest data from SOHR on murders in the camp, a total of three people were killed in July. Moreover, the SOHR report said that 27 people have been killed in al-Hol so far this year.

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on July 21, the former commander of US Central Command, Joseph Votel, said that al-Hol threatens US national security, adding that the sprawling camp is incubating the "next generation [of] ISIS".