The parents of Dutch citizens who left to fight in the war in Syria have launched a foundation to try to force the government to help them return to the Netherlands.
Around 20 parents have joined non-profit foundation De Achterblijvers, which is expected be registered with the chamber of commerce on April 17, the Volkskrant reports. The organisation is considering going to court to challenge the government’s policy of not offering active support to Dutch nationals in the region.
‘The Kurds and aid agencies are keen to co-operate, but we still have to convince our politicians,’ said a man named by the newspaper as Hussain. ‘The Netherlands has ignored a report by the children’s ombudsman and is violating the rights of children.’
He said the families accepted that their relatives would face prison sentences if they returned to the Netherlands, but argued that they were still entitled to support from the government.
‘Obviously our children have to answer to a judge for what they have done and be prevented from doing anything dangerous. But we don’t want our grandchildren, like the children of NSB’ers [Dutch Nazi party members] to be punished for the actions of their parents,’ Hussain said.
In January ombudsman Margriet Kalverboer urged justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus to bring back dozens of children stuck in refugee camps in Syria, arguing that the Netherlands has a duty of care towards them. Around 145 children with Dutch nationality or who are entitled to it are thought to be living in the conflict zone.
If parents cannot protect their children, the government should step in,’ she said.
The government’s policy is that anyone who wants to leave the area must take the initiative by presenting themselves to an embassy or consulate. However, the Netherlands has suspended diplomatic services in Damascus because of the deteriorating situation.
Broadcaster NOS reported last week that the foreign ministry had shared information with Turkey and the Free Syrian Army in an attempt to repatriate four men who had taken part in the conflict in a ‘supervised return’, which would include prosecution. The prosecution department has asked courts to impose jail terms of at least six years on anyone who fought in the war.
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