UN watchdog says France violated children’s rights in Syrian camps

The United Nations Child Rights Committee determined on Thursday that France had violated the rights of French children by leaving them for years in Syrian camps designated for family members of suspected jihadists.

Describing the conditions in the Syrian camps as “inhuman and life-threatening”, the Committee ruled that “France has the responsibility and power to protect the French children in the Syrian camps against an imminent risk to their lives by taking action to repatriate them”.

In its statement, the Committee stressed that “prolonged detention of the child victims in life-threatening conditions also amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment”.

Relatives of suspected jihadists are being held in a number of camps located in the northeast of Syria, the largest camp being Al-Hol, which houses some 56,000 displaced people and refugees.

The 18-strong expert Committee released its findings after considering three cases involving 49 French children being held in Kurdish-controlled camps. Committee member Ann Skelton warned that the children were living in “inhuman sanitary conditions, lacking basic necessities including water, food and health care”. According to the Committee, at least 62 children are reported to have died in the camps because of the unsanitary conditions since the start of 2021.

The case was initiated by French nationals – in most cases the grandparents, uncles and aunts of interred children, some of whom were born in Syria to French parents, and some who were brought there at a young age.

Since the case was first raised in 2019, the French government has repatriated only 11 children from the camps. The remaining 38 children of French citizenship are still detained in the camps. “We call on France to take immediate action, as every day that passes there is a renewed possibility for further casualties”, Skelton declared.


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