The Europeans who joined ISIS just a few years ago would now like to return to their home countries with their children.
Based on estimates, 8,000 children are stuck in camps in north-eastern Syria. They are at risk of abuse, harassment, sexual exploitation and child labour. The UN and other human rights groups are urging counties to repatriate their nationals and develop child-protection programmes to ensure their full reintegration into society.
Countries like the UK, France, Germany and Belgium, however, are worried about the risks involved in allowing those once or still sympathetic to IS to return. Yet, the children of the detainees have nothing to do with these acts—they are victims whose parents took them to Iraq or Syria when they were very small or who were born there. Now they must stay in camps, where health conditions are terrible; illnesses which are curable in Europe, but not in the camps, are spreading.
According to many humanitarian organizations, these children should have the right to return to the country their parents left to join IS. Some countries allow orphans to return, but are afraid to repatriate children with at least one living parent.
Grandparents in France filed a lawsuit against the state at the EU Court to ensure that their grandchildren receive the support and care they need. Mostly it is the wives of those who died in battle who would like to return. Although they themselves did not fight, they are not completely innocent—women often helped recruit for IS. Many express regret for what they did and how they ruined their children’s lives, and are asking for a better chance for their children.
Another major obstacle is that the children lack documents. Some have two citizenships, in which case, it is unclear which of the two countries should support the child.