Aid program ready for orphans, 2 and 4, returning from ISIS war zone

Children playing in a refugee camp
Children playing in a refugee campPhoto: radekprocyk/DepositPhotos

An extensive aid program is ready for the two Dutch orphans, aged 2 and 4 years, who were brought back to the Netherlands from a refugee camp in Syria, radicalization expert Annebregt Dijkman said to newspaper AD. The two young children's parents died in Syria. Their mother, Karenia J. from Zwolle, died due to an illness. And their father, a Belgian jihadist, was killed, according to the newspaper. The two kids were picked up by the French government at a refugee camp in Ain Issa on Sunday. 

Youth Protection Overijssel was given custody over the two children, Bea Zwarthoff of the organization confirmed to AD. But they will likely live with family members in Zwolle. "I do not want to go into this matter specifically, but placing them with family is very possible in a general sense. We want a place that is as safe s possible for the children. Our working method for children from Syria is no different that that for other children", Zwarthoff said. "Of course, we make a suitable plan for every person. It is tailor-made."

While the government previously said that it will not actively work on bringing Dutch rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war and their children back to the Netherlands, this same government also promised that there is a personal aid program ready for each person in this group, Dijkman said to the newspaper. "These are very concrete plans. For example, the Child Protection Board accurately mapped out in advance which family members live in the Netherlands and who could possibly provide care. Ideally these children will be placed with family and not with a foster family."

According to Dijkman, it is hard to say how these kids will adjust to life in the Netherlands, as there is still little experience with children who come from ISIS territory. "This is a relatively new phenomenon. There has been research into adult returnees, but there is still no consensus with those investigations. There has, however, been extensive study on children who come from war zones, such as child soldiers. Children with war traumas. That is somewhat similar. You can be sure this information will now also be used in Zwolle."

A group of Belgian psychologists and pediatricians who visited children in Syrian refugee camps do not believe there should be much concern about returning children posing a danger in the future, AD writes. These kids are "no ticking time bombs", they concluded. "We met normal children wo are able to be calm and focused, but also have fun. The children also took care of each other."

The two children's family did not want to respond to AD. "For all the questions you have, I refer you to our lawyer", an uncle of the kids said to the newspaper. The family's lawyer previously said that they desperately wanted to get the children back to the Netherlands and are very happy that they are coming home.