What should be done with children of Isis jihadis?
Belgium agrees to take in orphans born to its citizens in Syria
Belgium has agreed to take in six orphaned children whose parents were members of Islamic State, according to the militia that is holding thousands of former jihadist fighters and their families in Syria.
The Jerusalem Post reports that the children were born to Belgian citizens who joined Isis and were subsequently killed in battle, though this has not been confirmed.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) press officer Mustafa Bali announced on Twitter on Thursday that the US-backed militia alliance had handed over the children. He added: “Glad to see more countries are taking responsibility for their citizens but this must be extended to men [and] women in our camps and prisons, not only children.”
The SDF, which controls the part of Syria east of the Euphrates river, has warned that it will not be able to hold its thousands of prisoners indefinitely, Reuters says. A great number of those held in displacement camps are foreign and many are “unrepentant supporters of violent jihad”, adds the news agency.
On Monday, The Guardian reported that 12 orphans of French Isis fighters had been flown home and repatriated along with two Dutch children, who were due to be returned to the Netherlands by the French government. The 14 children were returned by Syrian Kurdish authorities.
Last month, human rights groups warned that at least 45,000 children born in the IS “caliphate” might soon become stateless, with the Norwegian Refugee Council dubbing them a “possible human time bomb”.
The question of what to do with the children of British jihadis has been widely debated in the UK following the death of Isis bride Shamima Begum’s three-week-old son in a Syrian refugee camp earlier this year.
The 19-year-old, who fled to Syria to join Isis in 2015, had asked to be allowed back to the UK with her son, having already lost two children. But Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her British citizenship - a controversial move that sparked debate in the UK.
In what The Guardian described as “an apparent policy shift” following the death of Begum’s third child, Hunt told the BBC in March: “We have been looking at how we can get in touch with these children, how we can find a way to get them out.”
Hunt said that it would be “incredibly difficult” to arrange the return of a British child from Syria, but added that if a child could be brought to somewhere with a British consular presence, such as Turkey or Iraq, it might be possible to provide help.
But the BBC reported in April that “there is still no plan to repatriate women and children, many of whose husbands have been killed or stripped of their UK citizenship”.