A UN official has called on countries to take responsibility for their nationals, including thousands of children of Daesh fighters, who are stuck at a camp controlled by US-backed militants in northeast Syria.
Panos Moumtzis said on Thursday that home nations must take responsibility for repatriating children of their citizens who fought along the ranks of Daesh and other terrorist groups.
“There is a prime responsibility of states vis-a-vis their own nationals,” Noumtzis, who is the UN regional coordinator for Syria, told a Geneva news briefing.
“All member states have to do all measures possible to make sure the protection, the prosecution, the repatriation the rehabilitation and the reintegration of these women and children in compliance with their obligations under international law.”
The remarks come as several governments have been grappling with the problem of what to do with captured fighters from their country, the women who married them and their children.
Children’s plight at the al-Hol camp in northeast Syria is also a dilemma for several Western nations, whose citizens fought along the ranks of Daesh and other foreign-backed terrorist groups.
Britain revoked the citizenship of a teenager who left at 15 to join Daesh in Syria, while Austria and Switzerland have said they will not help bring home adults who joined Daesh.
But Moumtzis said states had a legal responsibility, especially for children, many of whom were born in Daesh camps.
“The right to nationality is really very important under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” he said, stressing that “really nobody should be rendered stateless.”
“These children do have a father and a mother, (who) have a nationality, and therefore a solution has to be found.”
The UN official said the situation is further complicated because most states lack the capacity to offer consular services or access their nationals in the area.
“There has to be a concerted effort, this is not about blaming or ‘naming and shaming’, but it’s really about being practical and finding a way forward that would find a solution.”
According to the UN children’s agency UNICEF, about 3,000 foreign children from 43 countries are housed at the al-Hol camp alone, which has taken in most of the people fleeing territories once held by Daesh.
The children are among 10,000 non-Syrian and non-Iraqi nationals kept in a “restricted” section of the sprawling, Kurdish-run camp where 75,000 people live in total.
The latest UN figures show some 211 children were among at least 260 people who have died of malnutrition or disease en route to the camp since December,
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.