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France repatriates 47 women and children from Syria camp

Paris returns 15 women and 32 children from al-Roj camp in its third large-scale repatriation operation
A girls walks carrying bottles of cooking oil at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on 18 August 2021 (AFP)
A girl carries bottles of cooking oil at the Kurdish-run al-Hol camp in Syria's northeastern Hasakah province on 18 August 2021 (AFP)

France has repatriated 47 people from prison camps in northeast Syria where families of suspected Islamic State group (IS) fighters are held, the French foreign ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that those repatriated included 32 children and 15 women, aged 19 to 56, seven of whom were the subject of an arrest warrant and eight had been placed in custody.

"The minors were handed over to the services in charge of child assistance and will be subject to medical and social monitoring," the ministry said. 

"The adults have been handed over to the competent judicial authorities."

The women and children were held in the Kurdish-run al-Roj camp, which is located about 15 kilometres from the Iraqi and Turkish borders. 

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The French nationals were among roughly 60,000 women and children who live in the two sprawling al-Roj and al-Hol camps that are both controlled by the Kurdish administration in the semi-autonomous Hasakah region of Syria.

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For years, France and other western countries have been under pressure from humanitarian organisations to return their nationals from militant prison camps since they were captured following the fall of the Islamic State's self-declared "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria in 2019.

Of the many western countries with nationals in the camps, France has the highest number. Hundreds remain in conditions condemned by numerous NGOs and international organisations, all of whom have been pushing countries to repatriate nationals for years.

France's latest operation marks its third large-scale repatriation.

It comes shortly after the UN Committee Against Torture condemned France for failing to return French nationals from prison camps in northeastern Syria. 

In October last year, Paris repatriated 15 women and 40 children, and in July, 16 mothers and 35 minors were returned. 

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