UN urges resolving fate of 2,500 foreign children at Syria camp

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A woman walks through Al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria. (File/Reuters)
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A dove rests on the shoulder of a boy at Al-Hol displacement camp in Hasaka governorate, Syria. (File/Reuters)
Updated 18 April 2019

UN urges resolving fate of 2,500 foreign children at Syria camp

  • Panos Moumtzis, UN humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, said home nations must take responsibility for repatriating their citizens, prosecuting where necessary
  • Britain revoked the citizenship of Shamima Begum who left at 15 to join Daesh in Syria

GENEVA: Around 2,500 foreign children are stuck in a guarded section of a Syrian camp after fleeing Daesh's last stronghold, a senior United Nations official said on Thursday, urging governments not to abandon them.
The children's plight at the Al-Hol camp in northeast Syria is a dilemma for nations who saw citizens leave and fight for the extremist movement in Syria and Iraq only to find themselves in limbo after the fall of their self-proclaimed "caliphate."
Panos Moumtzis, UN humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, said home nations must take responsibility for repatriating their citizens, prosecuting where necessary.
"Really nobody should be rendered stateless and every effort should be made to find a solution for these people," he told a Geneva news briefing.
The children are among 10,000 non-Syrian and non-Iraqi nationals kept in a "restricted" section of the sprawling, Kurdish-run camp where 75,000 people live in total.
Some 211 children were among at least 260 people who died of malnutrition or disease en route to the camp since December, the latest UN figures show.
Britain revoked the citizenship of a teenager who left at 15 to join Daesh in Syria, while Austria and Switzerland have said they will not help bring home adults who joined the terrorist group.
But Moumtzis said states had a legal responsibility, especially for children, many of whom were born in Daesh camps. "Children should be treated first and foremost as victims" and "irrespective of family affiliation," he said.
The situation is further complicated because most states lack the capacity to offer consular services or access their nationals in the area. "There has to be a concerted effort, this is not about blaming or 'naming and shaming', but it's really about being practical and finding a way forward that would find a solution," the UN official said.


Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.