Dutch delegation brings back three children and one woman from Syria
Four Dutch nationals, including one woman with alleged ties to ISIS and three children aged two, five and twelve were handed over to Dutch officials, Kurdish authorities in the northeast of Syria reported on Friday evening. The transfer took place on Saturday morning in Kamishli near the Turkish border, according to the AFP
None of the people with affiliations to ISIS were active fighters for the terrorist organization, a member of the delegation team said. They were being held in a Kurdish prison and will now be transferred to the Iraqi city of Ebil where there is a Dutch consulate.
"We are here with a clear mandate to pick up a small group of Dutch people", Dutch Syrian envoy, Emiel de Bont said in a press conference.
During the Syrian civil war, some foreigners, including Dutch nationals, traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Kurdish forces captured many of the foreign ISIS members. They have called on foreign governments to repatriate their citizens, but many countries were reluctant to do so.
The move faced backlash from some political leaders. “If this is true Kaag and Graphaus have a huge political problem”, PVV leader, Geert Wilders twittered on Saturday. “It is unacceptable and irresponsible that we let the Islamic enemy, ISIS, into our country”, Wilders went on.
D66 Member of Parliament, Hanneke van der Werf on the other hand said it is beneficial for Dutch national security to try women who joined ISIS in the Netherlands and not let them disappear from the radar. She also claimed it was good for the children who "lived in appalling conditions and were recruited by ISIS. The Ombudsman for Children has also been calling for Dutch children to be brought back to the Netherlands.
In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the Netherlands is not obliged to repatriate Dutch women and children who are trapped in Syria. Initially, a judge ruled that the Netherlands must make an effort to retrieve children trapped in camps under horrendous conditions. The decision was later overruled in an appeal.
It is the second time that Dutch children have been retrieved from Syria. In 2019, two Dutch orphans along with twelve French children were picked up by French officials. The children were being held in a camp under “appalling conditions and without any form of parental guidance”.
At the time, the Cabinet said it did not intend to bring back more children from Syria. The case of the two- and four-year-old orphans was an “exception”, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stef Blok, said in 2019. The mission had only gone through because French officials were already in the area.
An AIVD report from October 2020, showed there are still around 120 Dutch nationals in Syria and Iraq who wanted to join ISIS. There are also at least 120 children with at least one Dutch parent in the area.