NEW YORK: The failure of authorities in France to repatriate from Syria the children of French nationals violates their rights to life and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child said on Thursday.
Many children have been held in life-threatening conditions in Syrian camps for years. The CRC statement came at the conclusion of three cases filed by a group of French nationals relating to 49 of their grandchildren, nieces and nephews in the Kurdish-administered Rawj, Ayn Isa and Al-Hol camps in northeastern Syria’s Al-Hasakeh governorate.
“The children are living in inhuman sanitary conditions, lacking basic necessities including water, food and healthcare, and facing an imminent risk of death,” said committee member Ann Skelton.
“At least 62 children have reportedly died in the camps as a result of these conditions since the beginning of 2021. The situation is therefore extremely urgent.”
The sprawling, fenced off Al-Hol camp is home to more than 50,000 wives, widows and children of Daesh members. Often, several families live together in cramped conditions in tents, with minimal amenities and limited access to water and sanitation.
Some of the children were born in Syria, others were taken to the war-ravaged country by their French parents at a young age. The occupants of the camps come from more than 50 countries and the UN has repeatedly called on the authorities in home nations to repatriate their nationals, in line with international law and international human rights law. So far, the calls mostly have fallen on deaf ears.
Since the relatives of French youngsters took their cases to the CRC three years ago, the government in France has repatriated 11 children but 38, some as young as 5 years old, are still detained in the camps.
“The committee found that France has the responsibility and power to protect the French children in the Syrian camps against an imminent risk to their lives by taking action to repatriate them,” the CRC said.
The prolonged detention of child victims of the conflict in life-threatening conditions amounts to “inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment,” it added.
France has failed to show that it gave due consideration to the best interests of the child victims when assessing their relatives’ requests for repatriation, according to the committee. It again urged France to take immediate action to repatriate the remaining 38 children, and to adopt additional measures to “mitigate the risks to life, survival and development of the child victims while they remain in North East Syria.”
Skelton said: “We call on France to take immediate action, as every day that passes there is a renewed possibility for further casualties.”