Talks have begun between the Netherlands and Iraq to repatriate 10 women and their children being held in Kurdish refugee camps after they went to join the civil war in Syria.
The Dutch government is trying to organise safe passage for the women to the Dutch consulate in the Iraqi city of Erbil without them being prosecuted in Iraq, where they could face the death penalty.
The foreign ministry’s policy is not to offer any assistance to Syrian war veterans who want to return to the Netherlands. However, the district court in Rotterdam has ordered the extradition of five women who have been prosecuted for allegedly belonging to a terrorist organisation, leaving the government in a quandary.
Lawyer André Seebregts, who is representing a number of the women, told the AD newspaper that talks were under way, while a spokesman for the justice ministry would only say that it was exploring ways to implement the Rotterdam court’s decision.
‘Our starting point is that we will not send Dutch nationals to places where they are not safe,’ said the spokesman.
The Kurdish authorities who are in charge of the camps say they no longer want to detain woman and children as there are no plans to put them on trial.
If the women return to the Netherlands they will be held in prison pending further court proceedings. Their children will have to be taken in by family members or other carers.
Seebregts said conditions in the camps were unsuitable for the families, especially young children. ‘The hygiene leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of women and children are falling ill as a result. There are no medicines or adequate medical facilities.’
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