SHARE
COPY LINK

SYRIA

Kurds in Syria hand over four IS-linked children to Germany

The Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria on Monday handed over four children linked with the Islamic State group to Germany, their first such repatriation to the European country, an official said.

Kurds in Syria hand over four IS-linked children to Germany
Heiko Maas in Berlin on Monday. Photo: DPA

About 117 children with German citizenship are thought to be in Syria.

“The autonomous region handed over four children from IS families to a delegation from Germany,” said Fanar Kaeet, a foreign affairs official with the Kurdish authorities.

They included a boy and two sisters who had lost both parents, and a fatherless girl infant who was repatriated for health reasons, Kurdish authorities said.

All are under 10 years old, they said.

READ ALSO: Islamic State children repatriated to Germany from Iraq

A spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry confirmed the handover to staff from its consulate in neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan at the Simalka border crossing.

“I can confirm that four children who were in custody in northern Syria were able to leave Syria,” she said.

“The children were received on the Iraqi-Syrian border by staff of the consulate in Arbil and will be given to family members,” the spokeswoman said.

“From there, the children and their family members will, we believe, travel to Germany.”

READ ALSO: 'I was a little bit naive': German woman flees IS

According to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the German government is working under difficult conditions to bring more children of IS fighters to Germany.

“We will work to ensure that more children can leave Syria,” Maas said in Berlin on Monday.

Maas had stressed that the children cannot be held responsible “for the deeds of their parents, and that is why we want to help”.

He said in each case there were difficult questions which had to be answered. Maas also thanked those that had made it possible to help the four children depart Syria “under such difficult and dangerous circumstances”.

Fight against IS

Syria's Kurds have spearheaded the US-backed fight against IS in Syria, and in March expelled the extremists from their last patch of territory in the war-torn country's far east.

Even as they fight remaining sleeper cells, thousands of alleged IS fighters and family members are being held in their custody.

These include hundreds of suspected foreign fighters in their jails, and thousands of their alleged family members in overcrowded camps.

Western countries have been largely reluctant to repatriate their nationals.

But France and Belgium have brought a handful of orphans home, while the United States last year repatriated a woman with her four children.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kosovo have repatriated dozens of women and children.

IS overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” there, but offensives in both countries have seen them lose that territory.

A dozen children of alleged jihadist fighters have been repatriated from Iraq to Germany since March

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

IMMIGRATION

Germany to allow deportations of ‘suspect’ Syrians

Germany said Friday it would allow deportation of Syrians to their war-ravaged homeland from 2021 if they are deemed a security risk, five years after a massive refugee influx.

Germany to allow deportations of 'suspect' Syrians
A flight deporting refugees leaving from Baden airport on Thursday. Photo: DPA

The EU's biggest economic power and most populous member allowed in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Syria's devastating civil war in 2015-16 but security officials said it was time to lift blanket protections
against expulsion.

“The general ban on deportations (to Syria) will expire at the end of this year,” Hans-Georg Engelke, state secretary at the interior ministry, told reporters.

“Those who commit crimes or pursue terrorist aims to do serious harm to our state and our population should and will have to leave our country.”

The decision, which drew vehement criticism from human rights groups, was taken at a telephone conference between federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, a hardline conservative who had long called for an end to the deportation ban, and his 16 state-level counterparts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans to deport 'dangerous' Syrian criminals

The Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left “grand coalition” government, failed in their bid to win a six-month extension of the protections, in place since 2012.

They argued that the still precarious security and humanitarian situation in Syria made expulsions there indefensible.

'First EU country'

Engelke, standing in for Seehofer who was in quarantine after a coronavirus exposure, told a news conference that an estimated 90 Syrian suspected Islamists were believed to be in Germany.

Calls for a change in stance have been growing since a Syrian man was
arrested in November on suspicion of carrying out a deadly knife attack in the city of Dresden.

Prosecutors said the 20-year-old, accused of killing one tourist and seriously injuring another, had a raft of criminal convictions and a history of involvement with the Islamist scene.

He had been living in Germany under “tolerated” status granted to people whose asylum requests have been rejected, but who cannot be deported.

Boris Pistorius of the SPD, interior minister of Lower Saxony, noted that on a practical level expulsions to Syria would remain next to impossible “because there are no state institutions with which we have diplomatic relations”.

But he sharply criticised the symbolic meaning of Germany becoming what he called the first EU country to lift the deportation ban.

Germany took in more than one million migrants including tens of thousands of Syrians at the height of the refugee influx 2015-16 when several EU member states shut their borders to asylum seekers.

'Disgrace'

The German foreign ministry has described conditions in Syria as “catastrophic” and noted that its nationals continue to be “exposed to dangers when they return” to their home country.

Government forces have regained control of large swathes of territory once held by rebels and Islamist groups, but opponents of the Assad government still face torture and death, according to human rights organisations.

However as Germany heads into a general election year to replace Merkel after 16 years in power, conservative politicians seized on the issue amid concerns among some voters about the security risk posed by refugees.

READ ALSO: German interior minister rules out deportations to Syria

“In such a situation, you can't tell the German population on the issue of whether someone poses a danger… that it is taboo to even think about sending them home,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the news conference.

German campaigners slammed the decision, calling it opportunistic and driven by political interests.

“The behaviour of the conservative interior ministers is a disgrace for the rule of law and irresponsible in its substance,” Guenter Burkhardt of refugee rights group PRO ASYL said in a statement, calling it a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Syria's war, which broke out after the brutal suppression of anti-government protests in 2011, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions.

Germany has launched several criminal cases over alleged war crimes in Syria under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

SHOW COMMENTS