Dutch kids can return from ISIS territory, but not parents: PM's party

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

The conservative VVD party is willing to discuss retrieving the children of Dutch jihadists from Syria and bringing them back to the Netherlands, but only if their parents do not come with them, parliamentarian Dilan Yesilgoz said on television show Pauw. Up until now the party of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte always outright refused to negotiate on this topic.

"When it comes to children, that of course also affects me. Especially if they are small children", VVD MP Yesilgoz said on the television program. "They didn't choose this themselves."

According to Yesilgoz, currently the parents of children taken to join the ISIS caliphate in Syria still have the right to come back to the Netherlands with their children. But if those parents lose their rights to return, the VVD is willing to negotiate repatriating the young children, she said. 

According to Dutch intelligence and security service AIVD, there are currently around 85 Dutch children in refugee camps and detention centers in Syria and Iraq. And at least another 85 children are with Dutch jihadists who are still active in the combat zone. 90 percent of these kids are below the age of 9 years, most of them were born in the combat zone. 

Despite multiple calls from the Children's Ombudsman and a UN special advocate to get these children out of the refugee camps and bring them home, the topic has the Rutte III coalition divided. The D66 and ChristenUnie want to work on their return. The VVD and CDA always refused outright. So Yesilgoz statements on Pauw are a turnaround for the party.

Coalition partner D66 is pleased. "Very good news that VVD MP Dilan Yesilgoz now also says that bringing young children back from Syria is negotiable", D66 parliamentarian Sjoerd Sjoerdsma said on Twitter. "Let's get the government together to do this!"