UNICEF visits children detained in Hasakah prison

“Children should never have been there in the first place.”
A delegation of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Saturday visited the al-Sina’a detention center in Hasakah (Photo: SDF Press Centre)
A delegation of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Saturday visited the al-Sina’a detention center in Hasakah (Photo: SDF Press Centre)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A delegation from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) met with children held in the al-Sina’a detention center in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah on Saturday.  

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) media center said the ​​delegation “conducted a visit to the Geweran/ al-Sina’a detention center that holds Daesh (ISIS) terrorists.”

“The visit focused on dormitories of the Daesh-affiliated adolescents (the Caliphate Cubs) who were separated from the adults inside the prison to inspect their conditions,” the center said.

The delegation included UNICEF Syria representative Bo Viktor Nylund and head of the UNICEF office in Qamishlo, Natasha Stojkovska.

“For at least ten days, children who have lived in dire conditions in Ghwayran detention center, many of them for years, witnessed and survived heightened violence in and around the prison further to the attack mid-January,” UNICEF said in a press statement after the visit.

“Children should never have been there in the first place. UNICEF is currently working to immediately provide safety and care for children while we continue to call on all stakeholders to urgently find long-term solutions in the best interests of the children,” read the statement.

“UNICEF acknowledges effort by the local authorities to stabilize the situation in and outside the prison. The work done to assess the condition of the children and support their care and protection has been invaluable and it needs to continue,” the statement added.

ISIS launched its attack on al-Sina'a prison, which holds 3,000 to 3,500 suspected terrorists, with an explosive-laden car on Jan. 20 as detainees rioted inside.

During the fighting, ISIS used 700 children who reside in a designated minors' ward for rehabilitation as human shields. UNICEF earlier called for the release of the children of ISIS families in detention.

The SDF announced on Jan. 30 that it fully recaptured al-Sina'a following the surrender of the remaining ISIS fighters there.

Read More: US-led coalition says SDF cleared Hasakah prison from enemy fighters

UNICEF called for the immediate release of children in the al-Sina’a prison and all detention centers across the northeast of Syria and for handing them over to child protection actors.

“We call on member states of foreign children to repatriate these children urgently, consistent with their best interests.”

UNICEF also said the current pace of repatriation and reintegration of (foreign) children stranded in northeast Syria is far too slow. “This is unacceptable.”

Read More: Countries should repatriate ISIS foreign nationals from Syria: HRW

Human Rights Watch earlier called for the repatriation of foreign nationals held by the SDF.