Sunday June the 21st, according to the French minister of Foreign Affairs, 10 jihadists’ children were repatriated. Those children were detained in camps in the northeast part of Syria under the control of Kurdish forces. Since the collapse of the Islamic State and the withdrawal of US forces in 2019, France has repatriated 28 children from Syria: 5 in March 2019, 12 in June 2019 and 1 in April.
According to the ministry press release – the youngest of them is only 2 years old – and all will be taken care of by a special team of medical and social services.
French diplomacy is based on a “case-by-case” basis. The goal is to repatriate orphans, under the condition of parental approval when the parents are still alive, which makes every case complex.
A French non governmental organization called “United Families” (Familles Unies), working on reunion of families, has expressed its relief for these 10 children, but also its anxiety for the estimated 300 jihadist children still detained in Syria. Many French associations want the situation of these children to be addressed as humanitarian cases, since some have been in camps for more than two years.
Between repatriation and distance control
According to French policy – the French jihadis (estimated at approximately 130 (among a total of 1000 foreign fighters) – can be judged in the countries where they were active. The former minister of defence, Jean-Yves Le Drian, expressed the French position (which has not changed under the mandate of the current Minister, Florence Parly): “those who committed crimes might be judged where they committed it”.
However, the Ministry of foreign affairs is on alert and keep surveillance of the Jihadis to prevent terrorist acts . According to the Centre of terrorism analysis (Centre d’analyse du terrorisme – CAT) stated , 13 French women escaped from camps under Kurdish control in May 2020. Among them was Hayat Boumeddiene, the widow of Amedy Coulibaly, responsible for the 2015 terror attack in France .
The difficult question of the reintegration of these children within French society is not solved. Some of them have spent many years in violent environment and experienced horrific experiences.