The U.N. counterterrorism chief is urging countries to repatriate the 27,000 children stranded in a massive camp in northeastern Syria, many of them sons and daughters of Islamic State extremists who once controlled large swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Vladimir Voronkov told an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that “the horrific situation of the children in Al Hol (camp) is one of the most pressing issues in the world today.”
The 27,000 children “remain stranded, abandoned to their fate,” vulnerable to be preyed on by Islamic State enforcers, “and at risk of radicalization within the camp,” he said. Al Hol, the largest camp for refugees and displaced Syrians in the country, is currently home to almost 62,000 residents, according to U.N. humanitarian officials. More than 80% are women and children, many who fled there after Islamic State militants lost their last Syrian stronghold in 2019. There are a number of other camps in the northeast as well. Voronkov said there are children from 60 countries in the camps who are the responsibility of their member states, not of Syria or the groups that control the camps. Kurdish fighters are guarding Al-Hol and other camps as well as thousands of Islamic State fighters and boys in prisons.
He said a number of countries — including Russia and Kazakhstan that convened the virtual meeting — “have collectively repatriated nearly 1,000 children and their family members.—AP