Monday

3rd Oct 2022

Hundreds of European children remain stuck in Syria

  • Syria in 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki)

Pro-Islamic State Europeans stuck in Syrian camps and prisons may create a "new hotbed of Islamist violence," says an EU internal document, as the plight of some 600 European children there remains dire.

The issue is set to be discussed behind closed doors among EU state delegations in Brussels on Tuesday (16 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The confidential paper was drafted last week by the rotating EU presidency under Portugal and came amid a European Parliament resolution on Syria.

Some 50,000 people worldwide are thought to have heeded the call of the Islamic State to join its caliphate in Syria and Iraq between 2011 and 2016.

The recruitment drive also attracted women, many of them bringing along children, to the region. Others were born into the caliphate to European parents.

With the caliphate now demolished, many have been left behind to languish in squalid north-east Syrian camps and prisons where Islamic State ideology remains entrenched.

Over 64,000 people of mostly women and children from some 57 states are said to be stuck at the Al Hol and Roj camps in northeast Syria.

Of those in Al Hol nearly 230 women and 600 children are a mix EU and or UK nationality, notes the document.

"The camp, or at least parts of it, has been mentioned as a sort of Da'esh mini-caliphate and the longer these people continue living there, the more they will become radicalised," it states.

Another 150 European men are also found in prisons in Syria and Iraq.

Few have managed to return to Europe in 2020 - due, in part, to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

And European governments have largely resisted bringing any children back, citing the belief they should not be separated from their mothers.

"The situation in the camps and prisons in north-east Syria could pose a threat not only in the region but also to the EU," states the document.

For their part, MEPs in their resolution on Syria last week demanded EU states to "urgently repatriate the children" of EU nationalities.

Similar calls were also made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier this year.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

Feature

Mechelen: the Belgian city with no foreign fighters

The picturesque, multicultural city north of Brussels believes it has the right policy mix to prevent Islamist extremism. It wants the rest of Belgium to follow its example.

Opinion

'Discriminated, dehumanised' - Denmark's Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees lives were never easy and now with the Danish government's decision to revoke more than 200 residency permits and shift asylum responsibility to third countries, their prospects of living in peace here are bleaker than ever.

Last-minute legal changes to Bosnian election law stir controversy

"[…] We were astonished that on election day, the high representative for Bosnia imposed significant further changes to the constitution,"German MEP Andreas Schieder, head of the European Parliament election observation delegation to Bosnia said on Monday.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation
  2. Greece to unveil proposal for capping EU gas prices
  3. Four dead, 29 missing, after dinghy found off Canary Islands
  4. Orbán: German €200bn shield is start of 'cannibalism in EU'
  5. Lithuania expels top Russian diplomat
  6. Poland insists on German WW2 reparations
  7. Russia halts gas supplies to Italy
  8. Bulgaria risks hung parliament after inconclusive vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Last-minute legal changes to Bosnian election law stir controversy
  2. EU wants probe into alleged Nagorno-Karabakh war crimes
  3. EU officials were warned of risk over issuing financial warning
  4. EU debates national energy plans amid calls for more coordination
  5. What Modi and Putin’s ‘unbreakable friendship’ means for the EU
  6. EU leaders have until Friday for refugee resettlement pledges
  7. Cities and regions stand with citizens and SMEs ahead of difficult winter
  8. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us