The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria handed the group over to a delegation from the Netherlands on Saturday.
The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria handed over to the Netherlands a Dutch woman, her two young children and a Dutch girl, who lived in a camp for families of alleged ISIL (ISIS) fighters.
A delegation from the Netherlands led by a special envoy to Syria, Emiel de Bont, received the four on Saturday in the city of Qamishli, in the offices of the Kurdish administration.
The group will be taken home and Kurdish authorities say the adult woman is not facing any criminal charges by her administration.
The move was a small step towards solving a complicated problem for European and Middle Eastern countries: what to do with the thousands of citizens who have traveled to ISIL territories in Syria and Iraq.
At a press conference organized for the transfer, De Bont said the four had lived in a small settlement known as Roj camp, where there were women and children, mostly Western women who had traveled to Syria and Iraq.
“This is a very specific consular legal mission that my government has decided to undertake because a Dutch court of law issued rulings in these specific cases,” De Bont said. He gave no further details about the sentences.
“We are here to serve the rule of law and do what we can to help the due process of law,” he added.
“Most dangerous field”
It was the second time Dutch citizens were repatriated from the camps in northeastern Syria, where thousands of foreigners and Iraqis have lived since the armed group’s defeat in 2019. Two Dutch orphans were repatriated in June 2019.
European countries have been reluctant to repatriate their citizens living in these circumstances. Most are concerned that there is not enough evidence to prove those who had joined the group or feared to maintain links with ISIL.
A Dutch court ruled last year that authorities are not obliged to repatriate a group of 23 Dutch women and their 56 children currently imprisoned in northern Syria. Experts said there would be exceptions for individual cases.
At least 220 of these Dutch-born children remain in Syria or Turkey, 75% of whom are under the age of four and were born in the region to Dutch-speaking parents.
Syrian Kurdish authorities, who were part of the international coalition that fought ISIL until the self-proclaimed “caliphate” fell in March 2019, say the camps where more than 70,000 members of the ISIL family are housed. ISILs are a security threat and a burden. The Kurds are still fighting fugitive fighters and fear that the camps may also contain some active members of ISIL.
“The international community must take responsibility for bringing these militants to justice and repatriating their citizens,” said Syrian Kurdish official Abdulkarim Omar.
He called for help managing another camp, the largest and most widespread Al-Hol, which he called “the most dangerous camp in the world.”
Assistance groups have described the appalling conditions in Al-Hol, which Syrian Kurdish officials have struggled to control and where mortality has risen. ISIL supporters are believed to carry them out as punishment against those who stray from the group’s ideology.
There are also thousands of people detained in prisons, with formal legal procedures and trials that are rarely held.