Germany has said it has repatriated eight women, who have joined the extremist group Islamic State (IS) and 23 children, from a camp in northern Syria.
They returned through a joint operation with Denmark, which repatriated three women and 14 children, German officials said. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said the women have been in custody and face criminal investigation.
Hundreds of Europeans who joined IS a few years ago are now camping in northern Syria. They were taken there along with thousands of people who were displaced from their homes, after the defeat of the militant group, Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, in March 2019. The German Foreign Ministry has said that women and children have arrived at the airport of Frankfurt on Wednesday evening from Camp Roj in Syria.
Maas said he was happy for them to return to Germany, but “mothers will be held accountable for their actions.” “Children are not responsible for the situation they are in,” he said, adding that “they need protection.” Many Europeans in Syrian camps are suspected women and children of IS fighters, or sympathizers of the jihadist group.
Human rights organizations have called on governments to repatriate their citizens, arguing that leaving women and children in camps exposes them to the dangers of disease and radicalism. Many governments have considered the possibility of repatriation on an individual basis, but some have even been reluctant to return them for security reasons.
About 100 Kosovars continue to remain in Syria and Iraq. According to the latest data from the Kosovo Police, there are mostly children there. In a written response to Radio Free Europe, the Kosovo Police said that according to the latest data in their possession, there are still a total of 96 Kosovars in the conflict zone, of which 43 men, nine women and 44 children, (including 32 children born in the conflict zone by at least one Kosovar parent).
Meanwhile, the Atlantic Initiative from Sarajevo says that there are still 97 people from Kosovo in the conflict zones, while 400 in total from the Western Balkans. In April 2019, Kosovo institutions, assisted by US authorities, repatriated a group of 110 Kosovars, including four foreign fighters, 32 women and 74 children. But for the remaining group in Syria, Kosovo institutions have not yet provided any information on whether work is underway for their repatriation.
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