The Dutch government must ‘make all possible efforts’ to repatriate some 56 Dutch children in refugee camps in Northern Syria, but is not required to bring back their mothers, judges in The Hague ruled on Monday.
The children ‘did not opt for the caliphate, but now they have to deal with torture, abuse and lack of facilities’ the court said in its ruling.
The group of 23 Dutch female jihadis and their children had gone to court to force the Netherlands to repatriate them from prison camps. The courtroom was packed with families of the women themselves.
Law firms representing the women and children said that by not bringing them back, the Netherlands is acting against international human rights treaties because conditions in the camps are so dreadful.
‘If the Netherlands does nothing, Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad will soon have the blood of children in his hands,’ said lawyer Tom de Boer, who represented some of the women.
On Friday it emerged that the Dutch counter terrorism agency NCTV believes bringing the children back would be better for national security in the long run.
‘Not bringing back these children carries more security risks within,’ the NCTV said in a memo seen by the Volkskrant. The children are still young and have not been indoctrinated and if they are not brought back, they could pose a risk in the future, the NCTV said.
The cabinet has repeatedly argued it is not safe to send officials to the prison camps to bring back children, although several children, including orphans, have been helped to leave.
Some 55 adults and 90 children are currently being held in Syrian detention camps, according to the Dutch security service AIVD.
In January, the Dutch children’s ombudsman renewed her call to the government to bring back children who are stuck in camps in Syria because their parents supported IS.
‘The development of these children has been seriously threatened by their parents’ choices,’ the ombudsman said. ‘If parents cannot protect their children, the government should step in.’
Prime minister Mark Rutte said the government would study the judgment closely.
André Seebregts, a lawyer for the families, said he expected more clarity in the next two weeks about how the judgment will be implemented. But he cast doubt on the idea of sending the children to the Netherlands without their mothers.
‘The Kurds have already made it clear several times that they don’t want to separate the children from their mothers,’ he said.
The Guardian reported on Monday that Turkey has started deporting foreign IS fighters who are currently living in refugee camps there. One US citizen has been sent back and seven Germans are scheduled to be sent home on Thursday. ‘Turkey is not a hotel for foreign terrorists,’ the Turkish interior minister said.
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