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Biden supports repatriating foreign nationals from Syria, says US diplomat

Several European countries refuse to repatriate adults from Syria, saying they should be tried where they are accused of committing crimes
Tens of thousands of women and children have been detained in camps run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia in northeast Syria.
Tens of thousands of women and children have been detained in camps run by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia in northeast Syria (AFP)

The Biden administration believes the international community should repatriate their citizens from conflict areas in the Middle East, where many are believed to be languishing in squalid camps in Syria.

Jeffrey DeLaurentis, US ambassador for special political affairs, told the United Nations on Wednesday that the repatriations needed to happen in order to counter the threat from the Islamic State (IS) group.

'Beyond being the best option from a security standpoint, repatriation is also simply the right thing to do'

- Jeffrey DeLaurentis, US 

"The global threat from ISIS will grow if the international community does not repatriate their citizens," he said, using another term for IS.

"Beyond being the best option from a security standpoint, repatriation is also simply the right thing to do."

DeLaurentis warned that the group "remains a serious threat", with tens of thousands of suspected foreign militant fighters in conflict zones.

Former President Donald Trump also supported the repatriation of foreign nationals who went to Syria and Iraq, and had urged Europe to take back its citizens.

Last October, the US Justice Department announced it had repatriated more than two dozen of its citizens from both of the countries, including 10 of whom had been charged with terrorism-related offences.

'Children languish in camps'

Several European countries and Canada, however, refuse to repatriate adults, believing they should be tried in countries where they are accused of committing crimes.

They only accept the return of their children on a case-by-case basis, such as in the case of a five-year-old orphan named Amira who was repatriated to Ottawa.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the case was exceptional and that she would be the only one to be repatriated at that time. 

Syria: UN experts call on 57 states to repatriate women and children from squalid camps
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Tens of thousands of women and children, most of whom are under the age of five and have alleged links to IS fighters, have been detained without due process and remain in camps run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia in northeast Syria.

Many of them are foreign women and their children who travelled to Syria and Iraq to live under IS.

Since the start of the year, an increase in violence in the camps has been reported, including the murder of 12 Syrian and Iraqi residents in the first two weeks of 2021 alone, which, experts say, only stresses the need for urgent action.

"We watch with concern as women and children languish in camps in dire conditions, with little access to education, increasing the potential for the radicalisation," DeLaurentis added.

On Tuesday, UN experts sent a letter to 57 countries, calling on them to take back their citizens who are currently in Syria's squalid al-Hol and al-Roj camps, where thousands are at risk of violence, exploitation and death.