France plans to repatriate children of jihadist fighters in Syria
France is working to bring back children held by Syrian Kurdish forces and belonging to suspected French Islamist militants, but will leave their mothers to be prosecuted by local authorities, French officials said.
France, like other European nations, has been wrestling with how to handle suspected militants and their families seeking to return from combat zones in Iraq and Syria, as well as those in detention, after Islamic State surrendered huge swathes of territory under military pressure.
Islamic State has suffered a series of deadly militant attacks over the past three years and is grappling with the threat of homegrown militancy as well as the risks posed by fighters slipping back across French borders.
“French authorities are now entering an active phase of evaluation on the possibility of repatriating minors,” one French official said.
Some 60 women, including 40 mothers with about 150 minors, have been reported in Syria by families in France. The large majority of the children are under the age of six.
After cross-checking information with Kurdish authorities and the International Red Cross, Paris has located a number of them in Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria.
Preparations are being put into place to repatriate children on a case-by-case basis, including those born in Syria, the officials said. Their return would depend on mothers agreeing to be separated from their children.
“It is in the best interest of the children,” said one of the officials.