At least 60,000 relatives of militants — many of them women and children — fled to Al-Roj and Al-Hol camps to escape Baghouz, adding to the 6.2 million already internally displaced people across the region, the 5.6 million who have left the country, and the 13.1 million in need of humanitarian aid.
Against this backdrop, Daesh members are not seen as a priority, and they face an uncertain future. It has become an international dilemma, as governments debate the “Daesh brides” who want to return to their home countries.
The UK has already revoked the citizenship of three women who joined the group. Reema Iqbal, 30, and her sister Zara, 28, left London for Syria in 2013, and between them now have five young children. Shamima Begum, 19, who lost her third baby last week, left the UK in 2015. Begum’s family has urged the British government to reconsider the decision as an “act of mercy.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has vowed to deny entry to Hoda Muthana who also left the United States to join Daesh in 2015.
Muthana’s father is suing the US government to have it recognize her as a citizen and to return her to the country.
France is also debating whether to allow two French women to return to the country after leaving to join the militant group.
The women are saying they hope to be judged fairly if put on trial as they feared for their children lives in Syria where many have died.
According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), at least 100 other children have died either en route to Al-Hol, or inside the camp itself.
President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Francesco Rocca, says he disagrees with the decision made by the western governments.
“Whatever a person has done, there are basic needs that must be met and this is something that is not negotiable. It is about human dignity, it is human rights,” Rocca told Arab News during the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development (DIHAD) conference.
These actions not only affect the mothers but also their children which is considered a collective punishment, Rocca explained, adding that this was forbidden under international law.
“If there is someone who committed crimes, then they have to be prosecuted. It is up to the legal system to investigate and identify the individuals,” Rocca said.
Spokesperson of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM), Leonard Doyle, also says that it is up to the courts to decide and not the politicians.
“Politicians sometimes make expedient decisions in the heat of controversy, this happens all the time, and it’s not always right,” Doyle said.
IOM often works with radicalised people and helps to deradicalize them and integrate them back into their own communities, Doyle explained.
Meanwhile, the SDF has repeatedly called on the West to take citizens back, stressing it does not have the resources to detain them indefinitely.
Rocca believes that leaving people stateless is a political statement, in line with the rise of populism in the US and Europe.
“Certain political actors are using this as a weapon, creating fear. Unfortunately, too many countries are repelling immigrants by calling them ‘illegal,’ something that is dehumanizing.”
In the case of families of Daesh fighters, Doyle said: “We can’t force people back where conflict is continuing, or we risk sucking them into it.”
The executive director of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Mario Stephan, said humanitarian aid should only be based on need and nothing else. “It is very important that we remind everybody that migration is not a crime,” he stated.
Rocca said Syria would provide lessons for years to come. “I hope we will learn from this experience, but I am not optimistic. We see too many similar situations,” he said, adding “what is happening in Syria is also being repeated in Yemen.”