PARIS — France introduced dwelling 16 wives of jihadists from sprawling detention camps in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, breaking with a coverage that for years had dominated out repatriating and attempting grownup girls who had left to hitch the Islamic State.
The ladies have been accompanied by 35 youngsters — some touring with their moms, others who’re orphans — in what was the biggest such group repatriated in a single go by France as the federal government responded to mounting stress to shift its strategy.
France had lengthy resisted calls by rights teams and safety specialists to repatriate grownup girls, saying that it thought of them “fighters” who ought to be tried the place they have been accused of committing crimes, in Syria and Iraq.
At the same time as such native trials proved not possible, France caught to its place and refused to deliver dwelling not solely adults but in addition most kids, repatriating only some dozen over the course of three years, following a piecemeal strategy that got here to distinction with most of its European neighbors.
The French Overseas Ministry mentioned in a press release on Tuesday that welfare providers had taken care of the kids and that the moms had been turned over to the judicial authorities. The ladies — all are French, besides for 2 who’ve French youngsters, the authorities mentioned — are anticipated to be charged in reference to becoming a member of the Islamic State.
Marc Lopez, the stepfather of a lady who remains to be detained together with her 4 youngsters in a camp, mentioned, “It’s a complete coverage change.”
“I hope that the others will comply with this summer season, as a result of there’s no purpose to let a state of affairs that has been occurring for years rumble on,” he added, referring to French residents nonetheless at camps.
Worldwide organizations, together with the United Nations, together with attorneys and politicians, had urged France to rethink its strategy, declaring the deteriorating residing and safety situations within the camps.
On Tuesday, Julien Odoul, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Nationwide Rally, the far-right get together of Marine Le Pen, posted on social media concerning the repatriations. “Bringing them again to France is against the law towards the safety of our individuals,” he wrote.
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About 165 youngsters and 65 girls of French nationality are nonetheless stranded within the fetid, disease-ridden detainment camps run by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, the place they’re in a state of authorized limbo.
Letta Tayler, a senior counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch, mentioned that greater than 1,000 European residents had been introduced dwelling since 2019, when the Islamic State misplaced its final foothold in Syria.
Repatriations in different European nations have accelerated because the starting of the 12 months, recognizing the dismal safety and residing state of affairs within the camps, with nations like Belgium and Germany bringing dwelling greater than 90 youngsters and their moms.
Against this, France had not taken again any of its residents since January 2021, following a case-by-case strategy that restricted repatriation to orphans and kids whose moms agreed to allow them to go.
Grownup girls, the French authorities have lengthy mentioned, ought to be tried in Syria or Iraq. However attempting them domestically has proved not possible — the Iraqi authorities has dominated out doing so, and the Kurdish administration that’s detaining them in Syria is just not internationally acknowledged.
The repatriation on Tuesday of the 16 girls, aged 22 to 39, urged that France was now prepared to take a unique strategy.
Ms. Tayler, of Human Rights Watch, urged the nation to repatriate all its residents and to prosecute them as acceptable. “Absolutely it could actually present due course of to girls who’ve already mentioned they’re prepared to serve jail time if they’re introduced dwelling,” she mentioned.
Ludovic Rivière, the lawyer of a lady who was introduced dwelling on Tuesday, mentioned “the French place had turn out to be ridiculous, harmful and indefensible.”
Dwelling situations within the Kurdish-run camps have deteriorated sharply over the months, giving higher urgency to repatriations and prompting the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Baby to criticize France.
“France has violated the rights of French youngsters detained for years,” the committee mentioned in a press release in February, including, “The youngsters reside in inhuman sanitary situations, missing fundamental requirements together with water, meals and well being care, and dealing with an imminent danger of dying.”
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Final 12 months, about 10 Frenchwomen on the Roj camp in northeastern Syria, the place most European households have been detained, staged a starvation strike to protest the squalid residing situations and France’s refusal to deliver them dwelling for trial.
Just a few months later, one other Frenchwoman, additionally detained in Roj, died of well being problems, regardless of her lawyer’s repeated appeals to the French authorities to deliver her again for remedy for extreme diabetes.
She left behind a 6-year-old daughter who was amongst these repatriated to France on Tuesday, based on the United Households Collective, a gaggle of households that has been campaigning for repatriations.
Most safety specialists and rights teams have argued that leaving European residents within the camps incurs higher dangers than bringing them dwelling, as a result of they may be a part of a resurgent Islamic State within the area.
In January, ISIS fighters attacked a jail in northeastern Syria in an operation that Kurdish officers mentioned was meant to free jihadist prisoners earlier than shifting on to attempt to take management of close by areas, together with Al Hol camp, the place a whole lot of relations of Islamic State fighters are held. Kurdish-led compelled regained full management of the jail after a 10-day battle, foiling the militants’ broader operation.
Given the terrorism-related trauma in France, repatriating Islamic State households en masse carried a political danger that Mr. Macron had lengthy appeared unwilling to take. His authorities’s transfer final 12 months to toughen its laws towards Islamist extremism appeared to sign a hardening of that stance.
In early 2019, a plan to repatriate at the least 160 residents, together with adults, was referred to as off on the final minute. Officers mentioned situations within the camp had turn out to be too unstable, however attorneys and rights teams mentioned that the French authorities had aborted due to a concern of destructive political penalties.
As repatriation efforts have been underway on Monday morning within the Roj camp, close to the border with Turkey, a detained Frenchwoman, whose lawyer, Mr. Rivière, requested for her to stay nameless due to security causes, mentioned that she felt extra optimism.
In audio messages despatched to The New York Occasions, the girl mentioned that the native authorities had first targeted on figuring out French orphans that they might deliver again. However she mentioned that that they had additionally advised some moms, to their shock, that they could be leaving quickly, too.
“That offers me some hope,” the girl mentioned.
On Tuesday morning, she was in France.