Brussels seeks to bring home children of Belgian militants in Syria

Brussels seeks to bring home children of Belgian militants in Syria

Philippe Goffin
Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence Philippe Goffin said his country wants to repatriate the children of Belgian militants being held in refugee camps in Syria AFP/ERIC LALMAND.

NEW YORK: Belgium is working to bring home all children of Belgian militants held in refugee camps in Syria, providing their mothers' consent, the country's top diplomat told AFP on Thursday (Feb 13).

So far, 42 children in two camps in northeastern Syria have been identified as those of Belgian militants, according to aides of Belgian Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin.

Brussels first wants the Kurds, who control the camps, to know that it wants to take back all children of Belgian nationality, said Goffin, who also holds Belgium's defence portfolio.

"Obviously, mothers must agree," said Goffin, speaking on the sidelines of meetings at the United Nations, where his country chairs the Security Council in February.

Goffin visited a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, which he said are nothing like the "appalling" condition of the camps in Syria.

"But what I have seen in Jordan is already unbearable. I am told that what is happening in Syria is not comparable, and that it is much more serious," he said.

Such repatriation, Goffin said, is allowed under international law.

The ideal solution "is to bring the children to the Iraqi-Syrian border. Let's see what can be done," he said.

The minister, however, declined to set a timetable, and said an operation could be organised with other countries in a similar situation such as France.

Belgium has identified 42 children of Belgian militants in Syria.

Thirty children and 13 mothers were counted in the Al-Hol camp, and 12 children and 10 mothers in the Al-Roj camp, Goffin's aides said. Both camps are located in north-eastern Syria.

At least four of the mothers, however, have begun legal procedures through the Belgian legal system to stop being separated from their children.

Source: AFP/de

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