France has violated the rights of French children detained for years in camps in northeast Syria by failing to repatriate them, the UN Child Rights Committee said in findings issued on Thursday.
The Committee had considered three cases filed by a group of French nationals whose grandchildren, nieces and nephews are currently being held in the Rawj, Ayn Isa and Hawl camps, which are under the control of Kurdish forces.
The cases concern 49 children whose parents are alleged to have collaborated with the ISIL terrorist network, also known by the Arabic term Da’esh.
Some were born in Syria, while others travelled there with their French parents at a very young age.
The Committee found that France has the responsibility and power to protect the children against an imminent risk to their lives by taking action to repatriate them.
The Committee also concluded that France has not shown that it gave due consideration to the best interests of the child victims when assessing their relatives’ requests for repatriation.
The cases were brought to the Committee in 2019 and so far, 11 children have been repatriated.
The other 38 remain detained in “closed camps in a war zone”, according to a statement from the Committee. Some are as young as five-years-old.
The Committee has urged France to take urgent action to repatriate them.
‘Inhuman sanitary conditions’
The situation in the camps is extremely urgent, said Committee member Ann Skelton.
“The children are living in inhuman sanitary conditions, lacking basic necessities including water, food and health care, and facing an imminent risk of death. At least 62 children have reportedly died in the camps as a result of these conditions since the beginning of 2021,” she said
“We call on France to take immediate action, as every day that passes there is a renewed possibility for further casualties.”
In the interim, the French authorities are also urged to take additional measures to mitigate the risks to life, survival and development of the children while they remain in Syria.
About the Committee
The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors countries’ adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols.
These address the involvement of boys and girls in armed conflict, as well as the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world. They serve in their personal capacity and are not UN staff nor do they receive a salary.